Ovechkin That I Used To Know January 30, 2013Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.
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A discussion of this season’s underperformance by the Capitals would not be complete without wondering, in print, what in God’s name has happened to Alexander Ovechkin. It wasn’t too many seasons ago that the man brought home four player trophies in one year.
This year? Six games in, and all he’s got to show is 1 goal, 1 assist, six penalty minutes, and a -2 rating. The Alex Ovechkin that broke the Capitals record for goals by a left wing, who took home the Art Ross and Rocket Richard Trophies in the same year, is currently eighth on the team in points.
Who’s that impostor in the #8 sweater, and what the heck did he do with the real Alexander Ovechkin?!
I remember those seasons not too long ago when Ovechkin looked like he was having all the fun in the world out there on the ice. The hockey world was his oyster, and he had the point totals, goal celebrations, and ear-to-ear grin to prove it. Nowadays, his goal celebrations (what few I’ve seen recently) have looked like the fun has gone out of it for the Great 8. I’m not sure what’s going on; but based on what I’m seeing, it doesn’t look like Ovechkin is having any fun anymore.
And if I had to guess, that may be a contributing factor to his diminishing numbers. If it’s happiness that breeds success, as some have argued, then Ovechkin’s diminishing numbers may correlate with him not having as much fun as he used to have.
Yes, NHL hockey is a business: a highly competitive business that can be as heartless as it is fun. But go pull the video of the goal Ovechkin scored against Buffalo on Sunday: there was no joy in his celebration. He took the traditional hug from the guys on the ice, and skated past the bench, without any evident pep in his step. Had the Alex Ovechkin of a couple years back gotten off to a slow start, he would have shown a lot more emotion on scoring his first of the season. This time? Meh. Another day at the office. Look at the video of his reaction to that goal, and try to tell me this is the same Alex Ovechkin who used to be lighting up the celebration reels as much as he was lighting up the scoreboard three, four, five years ago.
I don’t know about you, Caps Nation, but I want that old Alex Ovechkin back.
Anyway, I was sitting at a pharmacy waiting to pick something up today, wondering whatever happened to the old Alexander the Gr8, when the radio overhead started playing “Somebody That I Used To Know.” I thought to myself, “I just want Ovechkin that I used to know,” and the resulting parody pretty much wrote itself. (Yeah, I know…”and it shows.”)
So, here you go:
“Ovechkin That I Used To Know”
Parody of “Somebody That I Used To Know” by Gotye
Now and then I think of when you won the Calder
And how the future looked so bright for Washington
You played with passion and a joie de vivre
It seemed your scoring touch would never leave
Those days were hopeful, and that hope I still remember
You can get addicted to a certain kind of iffy
And being just another player, just not so great
But we can’t seem to get past early May
At least you can still collect your pay
I just miss the days when you could score one in a jiffy
But you didn’t have to lose your touch
And drive DC completely nuts with your lack of performance
We may not need a hundred four
But you make six million plus ’cause you get paid to score
No, you didn’t have to fade away
And leave us wondering if we should have picked Evgeni Malkin
They can’t move your fat contract, though
So now I need Ovechkin that I used to know
Now I need Ovechkin that I used to know
Now I need Ovechkin that I used to know
Now and then I think of all those playoff series losses
And wond’ring if another goal from you’d have won some games
The Cup won’t come to Washington
If you keep doing what you’ve done
I know that you’re much better, though
So I need to see lots more of the Ovechkin that I used to know
Because you just don’t have to play like this
Make out like you just don’t care and leave your fanbase hungry
You may not score three every game,
But who you are and who you were just simply aren’t the same
No, you don’t have to score every goal
Just be the player that deep down inside you know you can be
I’ll be right there to cheer the show
When you bring back Ovechkin that I used to know
Ovechkin, that I used to know, etc. (Outro)
Look, I like Alexander Ovechkin a lot, as a player and as a citizen of DC. He’s a genuinely good guy, and we’re lucky to have him here in Washington. But I miss those days when walking into Verizon Center always meant wondering, “Okay, how will Alexander Ovechkin amaze us tonight?” Nowadays, I’m wondering, “Okay, will Alexander Ovechkin even score tonight?”
Alexander Ovechkin is better than this. I know it. Caps fans know it. I’d bet money the whole hockey world knows it. And I’m pretty sure that in his heart of hearts, Ovechkin knows it, too.
Look, I know some of this is a bit heavy-handed–the Malkin reference is probably a bit much–but darn it, I know there’s a world-class hockey player in that #8 sweater somewhere. I just hope I get to see more of it, especially given how badly the Caps are doing at this point in the season.
So, yeah…I want to see Ovechkin that I used to know.
WEIRD AL I’M NOT
Better Find That Panic Button January 30, 2013Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.
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No, Caps Nation, don’t HIT the panic button just yet. But make sure you know where it is, because we may have to hit it pretty darn soon.
Like most of you, I saw the ending of the Ottawa game, a 2-2 tie broken by a power-play goal off a sketchy call. It wouldn’t be a full official season of Capitals hockey without at least one game being stolen by the officials, or so it seems as of late.
But with 1/8th of their season already in the books, the Capitals have managed all of 3 points. That puts them on pace for 24 points, which would nearly bring the team full circle to its historically stinkeroo inaugural season.
With Alexander Ovechkin, a former 4-trophy player, on the roster.
So, yes, this is very, very bad. How bad? Here’s the current playoff chart for the Eastern Conference, and please don’t run away screaming when you see it.
|Team||Max Pts||Curr Pts||Magic Num||Which Does What?||C/E|
TOR/NYR tie break is head-to-head
WPG/NYI tie break is head-to-head
MTL/NJD tie break is ROW
TOR/PIT tie break is ROW
Current PT favorite CHI not considered this East-only chart
Okay. So, right away, some good news: the Caps aren’t the worst team in the East, and they’re actually ahead of Philadelphia in terms of points available. Don’t forget, the Panthers charity-pointed their way to the division title last year, and the Flyers, well, are the Flyers, who you normally expect to see much higher up the chart.
Small comfort, that, but at this point, I’ll take whatever I can get.
Notice that as of right now, there’s not a lot of wiggle room between 1st place and 8th place, or between 15th place and 8th place. And with a conference-only schedule this year, every team’s win is going to be someone else’s direct loss. This isn’t a season where you can write 2 points off to a Western Conference powerhouse because, well, you’re not going to be playing anyone in the West. It’s also not a season where you can hope for help in the standings off of inter-conference games: if there are two teams ahead of you, and they go to overtime, you fall that much further behind, no questions asked, with not as many games available to hold your position.
The bottom line is that with the Caps standing 13th in terms of points available, they’re already in a position where they need to win, win a lot, and do it now. And they could soon find themselves no longer in control of their playoff destiny if they keep losing.
I don’t like being an alarmist, but at this point, I can’t argue with the math. And here’s what the math is telling me right now:
If the Capitals continue at the pace they’re now on, they will be eliminated from playoff contention on March 24th.
Yes, you read that right. If they keep playing like this, we’re going to end up with a month of meaningless hockey games here in the District. Not exactly the way to continue (ahem) a sellout streak.
Now for some good news.
The Caps will play a majority of their February games at home, which should–I hope!–give them time to hold position, and hopefully pick up a few spots in the standings. They’ll need every point they can spare, as they’ll only have half a dozen home games in March. And while the Caps are slated to spend the majority of April at Verizon Center, that home cooking isn’t going to mean much if they’re out of contention and the fans decide they’d rather watch the Nationals.
Look, I’m not a panic-monger by nature. I’m usually quick to offer some variant of “keep calm and carry on my wayward son.” (Which might make for a nice bumper sticker on the back of a Chevy Impala…)
But this is no ordinary season due to its shortened length. And even though the Caps, by all appearances, seem to be rebuilding, they cannot afford to take too many more notches in the L column if they still consider themselves contenders. They need to win, they need to win a lot of games, and they need to do it now. There is simply no time left to lollygag.
Gentlemen, either go hard, starting now, or just admit you’re playing for ping pong balls so we can get ready for the Nationals to start Spring Training. You have no margin for error, for the rest of the season. Get it together, now, or admit right now that this is going to be a rebuild year. And since I know you’re too proud to quit, then that leaves exactly one option: get it together, gentlemen.
This isn’t panic time, yet. But it is definitely very highly concerned time.
I want to wish the Caps all the best Thursday night in Toronto, and then on through the upcoming homestand and beyond. I believe this season can be salvaged despite the rough start, but the turnaround needs to happen soon.
Metro Alert for Sunday’s Caps Game January 25, 2013Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.
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This will no doubt be done better by someone else, but here’s my crack at it.
RED LINE. Metro advises that they will have service back to normal by noon on Sunday, so fans taking the Red Line shouldn’t be affected. RECOMMENDATION: Red Line riders may want to add a “just in case” 15 minutes to their travel time in case Metro runs into trouble clearing out the work zones.
YELLOW LINE. No work scheduled; normal service intervals are scheduled on the Green Line. Yellow Line riders should be unaffected. RECOMMENDATION: Expect normal service.
GREEN LINE. Work scheduled between <b>College Park</b> and <b>Greenbelt.</b> Only station affected is Greenbelt, which will be served by every other train. Normal service intervals are scheduled for College Park and all points south. RECOMMENDATION: Avoid Greenbelt if possible. Metro officially advises allowing 10 minutes additional travel time.
BLUE LINE. No work scheduled; Orange Line trains running at reduced service, so overlap should not be an issue. RECOMMENDATION: Expect normal service.
ORANGE LINE. <b>TWO SEPARATE WORK ZONES.</b> Work zone on <b>WEST</b> side between <b>East Falls Church</b> and <b>West Falls Church.</b> Work zone on <b>EAST</b> side between <b>Stadium-Armory</b> and <b>Cheverly.</b> Includes <b>Minnesota Avenue</b> and <b>Deanwood.</b> Trains running <b>every 24 minutes.</b> RECOMMENDATION: Bus or park and ride passengers on the west side may want to consider the Red or Blue lines. Official Metro advisory for travel through the work zone is 20 minutes. Park and ride passengers on the east side should consider the Blue Line, or the Green Line from College Park and points south. Bus passengers may also want to consider using the Red Line. Official Metro advisory for travel through the work zone is 20 minutes.
See you all at the game.–CS
Cue Edith Piaf January 7, 2013Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.
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Those of you who saw the movie “Inception” will get the reference right away, but for the rest of you, I need to explain that title before I dive into the meat of this post.
In the film, dreamers are reminded that it’s time to wake up when they hear ”Non, je ne regrette rien” by Edith Piaf. There’s subtext in the usage of that song: part of the plot involves how one of the characters recovers from a lot of moments that he regrets. And if you listen carefully, the horns at the very beginning of the film sound like the horn part of “Non, je ne regrette rien” slowed down–which is how they would sound to dreamers in “Inception.” And finally, at the end of the credits, the song is played at normal speed, signalling us, the “dreaming” audience, that it’s time to “wake up” ourselves.
Well, cue Edith Piaf on the nightmare that was the lockout, because now we can wake up and get back to the game we all love.
I’ve missed the NHL for the past few months. Not exactly junkie-jonesing-for-a-fix missing it, but there’s definitely been a hole in my getting-out-of-the-house schedule that’s been a project to fill. To be quite candid, I was beginning to expect them to call the whole season off any day now. So when I found out they’d reached a deal on Sunday morning, I was happier than Sean Avery at Boxers NYC.
I’ve seen the expected “I’m only going to show up to boo” comments in some quarters, and that’s too bad. Life’s too short, and hockey’s too much fun, to pay money to go stew in your own hatred. And in order to vote with your vocal cords, you have to vote with your wallet to get in the door–and both the players and owners will happily listen to your kvetching all the way to the bank. So if you’re going to show up, then cheer like the season depends on it.
And it very well just might. With a shorter season, every game is going to be that much more important. There will be almost no margin for error this season, even in the regular season, and never mind the playoffs. We’re about to get treated to five months or so of the most intense NHL hockey any of us will (hopefully) ever see in our lives. The errors of a 48-game season are much more dangerous than the errors of an 82-game season. This season is essentially going to be one long, long stretch run from the instant the puck is dropped. I don’t know about you, but I think that sure beats the heck out of a lost season.
And as far as I’ve heard, the playoffs are going to be the same as they’ve always been: 4 rounds, best of 7. Yes, the Stanley Cup Final could very well be in late June. (Just the thought of wearing an all-wool cloak when it’s in the upper 80′s is making me sweat.) But as far as I know, they won’t put an asterisk on the Stanley Cup for this year’s champions. The playoffs are the playoffs, regardless of the format of the qualification round (i.e., the regular season.)
The nightmare is over, Edith Piaf is blasting on our headphones, and it’s time for us to wake up to the reality of the new season before us. Is it the 82-game slate we’d hoped for? No. Did it start back in October when we all wanted it to? No. Did we get to see a Winter Classic this year? No.
But does all of that give us, the fans, license to hold a grudge? No, and especially not with a very unique season about to start. That’s not to say that we should be rejoicing that the season has been shortened. We shouldn’t be, not by any stretch. But it is to say that we’re not going to see another season like this–hopefully–ever again. So while we could get down in the amen corner and weep and gnash our teeth that we didn’t get the full 82 this year, I’d like to hope that we could instead take the good with the bad, and embrace the uniqueness of the season ahead of us. If both sides of the labor dispute have learned their lesson well, we may never again see a season like this. So why not appreciate the coming season for its uniqueness?
No, it’s not a uniqueness anyone would have wanted; we’re correct in seeing it as a bit of a lemon of a qualifying round. But what manner of lemonade might we see squeezed out of this lemon?
Let’s welcome hockey back with open arms, and look forward to a one-of-a-kind regular season. Every single game is going to matter this year. And the Stanley Cup will not be deliberately covered in tarnish for the team that ultimately wins it this year.
No, I did not, as a fan, enjoy the lockout. No, I did not, as a fan, enjoy long, dark winter nights without the company of the sport I love. No, I did not, as a fan, enjoy being reduced to a betting chip in a squillion-dollar poker game.
But Edith Piaf is blasting on my headphones. The dream is over. Hockey is back. And even though the regular season is going to be markedly different from a full 82-game slate, I think that just makes it a singular–and hopefully unrepeatable–experience to take in stride.
Hockey is back, finally. And I would submit that those of us who love the game, should love the game as we always have. The time for finger-pointing is over. Now it’s time for stick-taping, skate-sharpening, fight-strap-fastening, and trying to develop, once and for all, some way to de-stink hockey pads.
The nightmare is over. The season is finally at hand. And I, for one, can’t wait to get back to the rink and cheer for the guys in red.
For the Curious November 11, 2012Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.
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I’m bored to tears, and I am seriously missing the NHL. How badly am I missing it?
Well, I’m feeding my head with stuff like this. That’s how bad. Man, do I ever need a hockey fix.–CS
One Fan’s Plea September 25, 2012Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.
[Coming into this post, I know that I'm already a bit late with it. Preseason games have already been cancelled, and it's looking for all the world like the start of the regular season is in peril. Neither side seems all that willing to budge from its last round of demands, so further negotiating sessions would seem to be a lost cause right now.
I'm not going to change that with one little post on a blog hardly anyone reads, but I can't stay silent on this any longer.
I do have to admit to leaning more towards the owners in the present dispute. They're the ones who have to worry about whether or not their fans can afford to keep paying more and more money for their tickets. (And for this fan, that's getting to be a very difficult decision to stay on board, given the ever-escalating expenses of entrance.)
The players do not have that concern: they want their money, and where it comes from is not their affair. Nor, in all fairness, should it be. That said, if I have a dog in this fight, it is the owners, and you may make of that bias what you will.
That said, I am still a fan of the sport, first and foremost. And it is from THAT perspective, however tinged with sympathy toward the owners, that I write the following.--CS]
To the members of the National Hockey League Players’ Association:
I already miss hockey.
Tonight was supposed to be a Capitals’ preseason game. After a long, sad summer spent wondering what might have been if the Capitals had done something differently in their season-ending loss to the Rangers, I had been looking forward to putting my game-night outfit back on, and re-acquainting myself with Verizon Center. The weather in DC is gorgeous today: it would have been a perfect night to start this season’s journey anew. Alas, it is not to be, and I grieve that it has come to this.
At this time of year, we should be seeing our younger players giving their all here in Washington, giving every last ounce of their effort for the honor of being on the Opening Night roster. Do you remember that, gentlemen? Your first Opening Night? That one day when years and years of blood, toil, tears, and sweat paid off, and you took the ice amid all the fanfare of a new season?
Do you remember?
As the weather cools, and the nights grow longer, we should all be preparing for the long six months ahead. 1,230 games should be awaiting us all right now, the long and slow, yet still exciting and gone too fast, six months of the NHL regular season. It makes winter go by that much faster; somehow the cold weather, the ice upon the ground, and the short, short daylight hours, seem more bearable when there’s hockey to be had. We should be looking forward, right now, to half a dozen servings of the Rangers and Islanders; a quartet of tilts between the Capitals and Penguins; six contests featuring the Maple Leafs and Canadiens; four servings of Minnesota and Dallas; half a dozen rounds of Original Six rivalry between the Blackhawks and Red Wings; and 18 games’ worth of the Battle of the Golden State.
How much of all of that will we miss? Will we miss a game in which Henrik Lundqvist does his best impression of a force field, and shuts out the Flyers? Will we miss a nine-point game from someone we never knew had it in them? Will we miss a young and rising superstar score a goal on his first shot? Will we miss somone playing through the pain, and still delivering a career performance? Will we miss a shootout that goes into double-digit rounds as each team looks for a hero? Will we miss the Winter Classic? Will we miss one of the final few seasons in the history of the New York Islanders?
Even though the playoffs are the ultimate goal, there are many, many moments of greatness to be had in the regular season. Do you remember that, gentlemen? Do you remember the rigors of the regular season? Those long, arduous six months of playing together, traveling together, winning and losing together, and carrying the hopes and dreams of an entire city, together?
Do you remember?
And then, when the regular season comes to a close, sixteen teams remain to challenge for the most famous trophy in North American sport. From April through June, it’s two long months of win-or-go-home hockey. The Stanley Cup playoffs have been called the most difficult championship tournament in all of sports. (Even if Memorial Cup fans may disagree.) Certainly the pageantry and passion, the triumph and heartache, are without equal. What grand moments will we miss this year? Two bitter arch-rivals getting hat tricks in the same game? An overtime series-clincher? Another chapter in yet another historic rivalry?
The Stanley Cup Playoffs are a rite of spring, that magical time of year when the blizzards are over, but summer’s blazing heat has not yet set in. The Stanley Cup Playoffs are when new heroes are born. Do you remember that, gentlemen? Do you remember how hard those two months are? Do you remember how loud the arenas get, as every fan gives you their last full measure of full-throated support? Do you remember the thrill of being on the winning end of a handshake line, and the agony of being on the losing end of one?
Do you remember?
And then, there’s the Stanley Cup. 35 pounds of triumph, and a beautiful testament to the passion of what I believe to be the greatest game on Earth. And it’s not just the joy of lifting it: there’s the knowledge that your name will be inscribed upon it, to be remembered as a champion for as long as hockey is played. Winning the Stanley Cup means that even if your statistics are someday forgotten; even if at some future time, the world doesn’t remember your first goal; even if in years to come, people can’t quite pick you out of a crowd; even then, once your name is on that Cup, your victory stands for all time.
And it was for the chance to win that Cup, that so many of you began your careers. Those long road trips to away games; those early-morning skates; all those drills; the entire experience of growing up at the rink; it was all about winning the Stanley Cup someday. You began your careers, so many years ago, with dreams of winning the Stanley Cup. Do you remember that, gentlemen? Do you rmember seeing your childhood heroes raise that Cup, and promising yourself that you wanted to do the same someday? Do you remember working hard at the rink when people doubted you, knowing deep down that this was the price of chasing your Stanley Cup dream? Do you remember all the sacrifices you made growing up, in order to have a chance to lift that fabled chalice?
Do you remember?
Gentlemen, it’s about hockey. It’s about winning. And it’s about the Stanley Cup. Do you remember?
I understand that you are trying to make as much money as you can during your most productive years. I understand that you know your playing days can end at any time, and that you want to earn all you can in however long God gives you to play. Most of you are earning an entire lifetime’s worth of income during your playing days, and you want to make every last minute count. I understand that; I really do.
But gentlemen, look what it’s come to! How many of you are playing in leagues that you’d never consider playing in, if the NHL were in session? How many of you are making less money now, even less than what you would have made had you agreed to the owners’ last offer? How many of you have had, or expect to have, family trouble because you’re playing somewhere your loved ones aren’t? And who among you won’t win the Stanley Cup this year if you sit out the entire season? Even more, who among you may be missing the only Stanley Cup championship he ever would have won in his entire career?
Gentlemen, I understand that you want to earn as much as you can. I get it. I sincerely applaud each of you for your success–that you get to earn so much for doing what you’ve always loved. I give you my sincerest congratulations on that. Not everyone gets to do do what they love in life, and you are each and every one to be commended for having risen to the highest level of a fiercely competitive sport.
But I will say it again: gentlemen, it’s about hockey. It’s about the Stanley Cup. Do you remember?
I would be willing to bet that for each and every last one of you, your first hockey dream growing up was to win the Stanley Cup: it wasn’t to earn scads of money. Put yourselves back in your younger shoes, and answer this question for yourselves. If someone had come back from the future and told you when you were young that you could make good money playing professional hockey, but that you’d never, ever win the Stanley Cup, no matter how hard you tried, how many of you would have stuck with the early morning skates, long road trips, and endless drills?
Gentlemen, you have each and every one been given the gift of a lifetime: to be able to play at the highest level of the game you love, in pursuit of arguably the most famous trophy in sports. Why, then, do you insist on throwing it away because you can’t get paid enough to do something you already love?
We should not have to be sitting here at the end of September, with preseason games already cancelled, discussing proposals, acronyms, percentages, and revenue splits. It’s annoying. It’s infuriating. And it’s boooooooooooooooooooring.
At this time of year, we should be talking about amazing prospects, training camps, and the final preparations for a new NHL season. Instead, we’re talking about who gets to make more money in one year than some Americans will ever earn in a lifetime. You’ll have to excuse me if my sympathy is less than total.
I should be getting dressed for the game right now; but here I am, in front of my word cruncher, trying in vain to convince grown men who are doing what they love for a living, that they really ought to keep doing what they love: i.e., playing in the best hockey league on the planet, in pursuit of the most prestigeous trophy in sports.
Gentlemen, IT’S ABOUT HOCKEY.
Do you remember?
MISSING THE GAME ALREADY
I’m Puzzled Here August 25, 2012Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.
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I saw the article that Ted linked to recently, where American football gets compared to English soccer on social media.
That got me thinking. How, exactly, do the Caps stack up on Twitter, compared to the rest of the NHL?
I pulled the numbers on Wednesday afternoon, but, not exactly liking what I found, initially opted to table this until I could get my analysis of the numbers into a less severe tone. I’d hate to come across as bad-mouthing a team that’s treated me so well over the years. The Capitals, from Ted Leonsis on down, have been very good to me for a very long time, and I’m reluctant to imperil that much goodwill.
BUT–and this is why I’m going forward with running this–if I see what could be a problem, shouldn’t I point it out? If keeping my mouth shut means the team keeps doing what could be the wrong thing, wouldn’t I be doing the team a disservice by spiking the story?
Indecisive Libra that I am, it’s taken me a couple of days to decide.
But, in a spirit of loving guidance, I’m going to go forward with this piece. For the record, I’m not mad here: I’m just not quite sure why the Caps are doing what they’re doing on Twitter, especially in comparison to other NHL teams.
So here goes nothing. I know I’m not going to make any new friends on F Street by saying this, but check the numbers: the Capitals are statistically one of the snobbiest NHL teams on Twitter.
First, the follower numbers, which, again, I got on Wednesday afternoon. All the feeds were check-marked as official, and I’m going to take Twitter at its word on that.
NUMBER OF FOLLOWERS
Okay, in terms of followers, the Caps aren’t doing bad at all: top half of the league, more followers than a good number of prior Stanley Cup champions, and within hollering distance of the current Stanley Cup champions. The teams ahead of the Caps are all hockey towns of considerable repute, and the Caps are at the top of the heap in terms of followers in the Southeast Division.
Not bad, right? Well…not so fast. Take a look at these next two charts. The gaudy numbers you see by Toronto and St. Louis are not typos.
TEAM FEED FOLLOWING
Ouch. The Caps come in second-to-last here, in absolute terms, with not even three score follows. There’s a lot one can say about Toronto’s performance on the ice, but MAN, are they ever good with the follow backs on Twitter.
So what? Doesn’t a championship mean more than Twitter numbers? Perhaps…but try convincing the Islanders of that. They won four Stanley Cups a generation ago, and they might not even sell out three games if they sold one ticket to every Twitter follower that they have. (One of which is me, by the way: I consider it prudent hockey fandom to follow all 30 official NHL team feeds.)
But more to the point, engagement matters. This has been something that the Capitals have recently been at the forefront of. The team didn’t exactly invent the hockey blogosphere, but they did a heck of a job nurturing and building it. The Capitals, at least from what I’ve seen, have been a high-touch franchise for quite some time. So what’s with the infinitesimal follow numbers?
It gets worse when you look at the ratio of followers to follows. I’ve rounded the ratios to the nearest hundredth.
RATIO OF TWITTER FOLLOWERS TO FOLLOWS
Again the Caps turn up near the bottom, this time in relative terms. What’s particularly troubling here is that, of the 5 teams at the bottom–all of which have ratios north of 2,000 to 1–the Capitals have the lowest number of followers by a very wide margin. Perhaps it would be a bit much for a feed with a quarter of a million-plus followers (Pittsburgh, Vancouver, Montreal) to have a similar ratio to, say, the less-followed Florida Panthers. A fair point…but then, how do the Red Wings, with thousands more followers than the Capitals, still manage to keep their ratio in double digits? How do the Maple Leafs, with over half again as many followers as the Caps, stay on top of a Follow list that wallops the Capitals’ by more than 450 to 1?
Does it make any sense for a team that prides itself on being highly engaged, to be that reluctant to follow other feeds? What are the Blues doing that the Capitals aren’t? How are the Hudson Valley teams all able to maintain such good followback ratios? How do the Maple Leafs, who may just be Canada’s version of the New York Yankees, stay on top of 25,000+ feeds? And, most importantly, what’s preventing the Capitals from doing likewise?
If you’ve got any ideas, Caps Nation, I’d love to hear them. Something about this scenario does not compute. It’s out of character for an organization that prides itself on being high-touch.
For the record, I’m not mad here, I’m not trying to stir the pot, and–believe it or not–I’m not trying to beg for a follow. I just pulled the data out of curiosity, and couldn’t make any sense out of it. If anything, I’m just puzzled by a situation that’s so completely out of character for the team I love so much.
On the NHL 13 Demo August 21, 2012Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.
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The NHL 13 demo from EA Sports came out today, and I opted to give it a try.
I started with the Hockey Ultimate Team demo, and managed to get Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis on my top line, along with Jonathan Quick in net. Shawinigan–a JUNIOR team–should have been no trouble. Instead, half a dozen shutouts later, I’ve thrown in the towel. Quick was playing like he couldn’t defend a Turkish whorehouse, and Stamkos was playing like he couldn’t score in one, either. Enough. I didn’t even look at the other modes. Demo’s off my hard drive, and I guess I’ll be sticking with NHL 12 this year.–CS
Toward Gratitude and Renewal July 31, 2012Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.
It’s July 31st, and the dog days of hockey are upon us. The awards for last season have long since been handed out; the Entry Draft we’ll only be able to grade a few years hence; and the preseason is still a ways off. But at this point, the knowns have moved around considerably, and we should have a much clearer picture of where the Capitals will stand heading into the 2012-2013 campaign.
It’s admittedly been a trying couple of months for me, both personally and as a Capitals fan. The personal matters I need not trouble you all about; I’ll stick to the hockey, and have done with it. I’d rather not give the haters any reason for glee at my expense.
I’ll come right out and say it: I’m still smarting a bit from this year’s playoffs. This really should have been the year. We HAD that series against New York. HAD it. And lost it. How we would have done against New Jersey, never mind Los Angeles, only Providence can know. But the New York series…darn it, we HAD that one.
But, to hear some of the long-time fans tell it, hey, welcome to Washington, and this is just the way the hockey goes around here.
But like the songwriter once said, I won’t accept this thought, that this is who we are.
I have been trying, very quietly, over here in my out-of-the-way, overlooked, and oft-neglected corner of the Capitals blogosphere, to say that THIS IS NOT THE WAY IT HAS TO BE. Hell, this is not the way it SHOULD be. Washington has been a good choice for free agents the last couple of years, because the PROFESSIONALS (ahem) think this team has a shot. A GOOD shot. An I’d-like-to-toil-sweat-and-bleed-for-this-team-because-I-think-it’s-that-good shot. That ought to count for something, I should think.
Why don’t we, the fans, think that? Why is every postseason disappointment met with “See, what did I tell you?” I honestly believe there are Capitals fans out there who take a backwards pride in watching the team lose, just because it proves how “smart” they are.
I’ve said it before, more times than I probably should have, but it bears repeating. WHAT WE BELIEVE, IS WHAT WE’LL GET. IT. IS. UNIVERSAL. LAW.
Spiritually, I think one of the most unadvisable things to say–though admittedly, I’m guilty of saying it myself–is “I’d love to be wrong on this.” Well, that’s not your intention, even if you fig-leaf it that way. Your intention is what you INTENDED, not what you hoped to be wrong about intending. If enough Caps fans think, thereby intending, that we’re a losing team, guess what? We’re going to be, and stay, a losing team, perhaps even losing in some of the most unthinkable ways.
See, I don’t think, now that I’ve had enough time to reflect on it, that Joel Ward’s late foul in Game 5 against New York was the CAUSE of the Capitals’ defeat. It was the EFFECT of all our negativity, all of our waiting for the other shoe to drop, all so some of us could smugly say, “See? I told you so.”
Let me be blunt. Joel Ward did not commit the foul that led to our long summer. We did. We, the fans, committed a season-misconduct foul against our team’s highest spiritual good. And because I know I’ll get accused of it, no, I’m not exempting myself from that, either.
The best way to figure out how high your intentions for your team are, is by noticing your reaction to the final season result–in the Capitals’ case, defeat. How did you feel when Game 7 was over on Broadway?
Were you sad? Angry? Devastated? Smug? Numb?
I must respectfully submit that unless you felt like you’d just suddenly lost a close friend, your intentions weren’t as high as perhaps they could have been.
Like I said, I am not exempting myself from that, either. I was watching Game 7 from one of the bars out in Arlington, and when the game was over, I immediately settled my check and headed straight to the Metro. My thoughts were not on the end of the season; they were on, “I’ve got a train to catch; time to give my jersey a good wash; the BELIEVE sign’s got to go…”
(Side note for the curious: I have yet to follow through on getting rid of that sign. I still have it, and it is still in one piece, in more or less the same condition it was when I brought it home from Game 6. I had a very strong feeling that destroying it would be bad, somehow, so I’ve still got it. What I’m supposed to do with it, I don’t as yet know.)
Simply put, I didn’t feel the loss. I was just numb. The reality did set in quickly, though. Normally, when I hang up my uniform after a game, I always stage the next game’s ticket in my lanyard, so on game night I can just grab the lanyard, double-check the ticket, and then put it on and get moving. Not having a ticket to insert, knowing this was it until September–pending labor negotions, on top of that–was when it really started to sink in. And even then, I didn’t feel much. Disappointed, absolutely; sort of sad, yeah; but there wasn’t that sense of soul-deep sorrow that, once it passed, would have told me I’d at least done all the intending I could have done.
So when I say it’s our fault, that does include me; and I’m going to have to figure out, over the next couple of weeks, what more I can do to be of greater spiritual assistance to the team.
But I’m just one guy, and I can only do so much. So this, Caps Nation, is where I need your help. Humor me on this, will you? Please? It might actually help the team win, who knows?
Tomorrow, August 1st, will be a new day. We generally know, though there may be more moves this month, most of who our 2012-2013 Washington Capitals will be. Right now, our season is new, our coach is new, and since there have been and may still be roster changes, our team, as a whole, will be new.
It is time for us, the fans, to be new.
“But wait, you jersey foul poster child,” you protest. “I’ve been following this team since [insert long-ago date here]. How am I supposed to be new, having been there, seen that, and bought a bunch of T-shirts? That doesn’t make any sense.”
Well, for one thing, you haven’t seen it all: the Caps haven’t won the Stanley Cup yet. Nor will they, if you insist on being the same fan you’ve been all these years. (And make no mistake, this is addressed as much to me as it is to the reader.)
What brought you to the Capitals in the first place? What was your first game like? Do you remember? Who was your favorite player back then? Why did you like him?
All of us, including me, need to spend the next couple of weeks recalling and reflecting on that first love. Bring it back. Soak in it. Revel in it. You love this team, darn it, and you’re sure that this will be the year. Now BELIEVE that. All the way down to the deepest fiber of your being. These are your Washington Capitals, and these are the men who will strive to bring Lord Stanley’s Cup to Constitution Avenue next June. BELIEVE it.
FORGET THE PAST. It’s over. Let it go. That’s not to say you don’t honor and respect the players from days gone by. It IS to say that last year’s results do not have to be repeated this year. The season is new; our team is new; and our Belief IN that team must be new, as well. We need to love our Capitals the way we did when we first discovered them. And I mean ALL of us, me included.
But, you might wonder, what of the past? How are we supposed to just dismiss all the underperformances of seasons past? My solution: by taking it as the foundation for tomorrow’s success.
There’s a song that actually says this better than I could. It’s called “Gratitude,” and it’s by VNV Nation. There’s no way I could have written this, so I’m glad they did. And if I had to pick the Caps’ theme song for the coming year, this would be it. It goes like this:
It is not love, if love is cold to touch.
It is not belief, when there’s nothing there to trust.
Could not submit; would never bring myself to heel.
Determination grows, as each truth’s revealed.
Torn and repaired, just to endure it all again,
Without a reason for my place in all this pain.
Though well concealed, the scars, they just compound,
Until there’s nothing left of what was my former self.
My God–look at what we are now, without regrets for all the things that we have done.
Thank you for all the doubts, and for all the questioning;
For all the loneliness, and for all the suffering;
For all the emptiness, and the scars it left inside;
It inspired in me an impetus to fight.
For the conviction, for the purpose found alone;
For the strength and courage that in me I’d never known.
And if it seems to you that my words are undeserved,
I write this in gratitude, for whatever good it serves.
Sometimes I wish that you could see me now,
In the rightful place where I knew that I belonged.
Sometimes I wish that you might someday understand,
And close a chapter, lay to rest the past.
But nothing would change: we make the best of what we have,
For we are measured by the actions of our lives.
We bide our time, let the future unfold,
Like immortals in great legends to be told.
My God–look at what we are now, without regrets for all the things that we have done.
Thank you for all the doubts, and for all the questioning;
For all the loneliness, and for all the suffering;
For all the emptiness, and the scars it left inside;
It inspired in me an impetus to fight.
To all who stood with me, when we stood as one:
Thank you for guiding me, for bringing me home.
And if it seems that I’m obliged to say these words,
I write this in gratitude, the least that you deserve.
And there’s that G-word again. We have to be grateful for the team that we have, the players we have, the staff that we have, and yes, the many, many successful moments from the past. No, the Caps haven’t won the Stanley Cup yet, so we don’t have ultimate success. That’s fine: take that point if you please. But don’t try telling me with a straight face that you didn’t enjoy the game against the Penguins when Ovechkin and Crosby traded hat tricks, but the Capitals ended up winning the game. Don’t tell me you didn’t get some satisfaction getting to Verizon Center in the middle of the storm of the century to watch the Caps beat those same Penguins. Don’t tell me you didn’t enjoy watching the Capitals win the Winter Classic, under the lights, in Pittsburgh. And please don’t waste your time telling me you didn’t get some sense of satisfaction last season seeing Buffalo out of the playoffs, after they’d pranced around our house like they owned it and were somehow a playoff lock. There have been many, many happy moments in the history of the Washington Capitals, and for those, we do need to be grateful.
If there were not frequent moments of individual greatness, thrilling victories, dramatic performances, and sometimes even athletic artistry throughout any given season, being a hockey fan would be a non-stop downer. Caps Nation, you and I know that it’s not. Yes, there are disappointments: I won’t diminish those. But don’t let anyone else diminish those happy moments…where your favorite player put in a career night…where some kid just off the bus from the minors played like he didn’t ever want to go back…where the Caps kicked the snot out of that one team you love to hate…or when you had to convince yourself that, yes, one of the Caps really DID just do that astonishing thing that you just saw him do.
Think back on those moments, and be grateful for them. For if we, as a fan base, can’t even be grateful for the small victories we see on a regular basis, how can we reasonably expect to have the Caps go on to larger victories?
So, for the month of August, while the hockey news slows down a bit, this is something that we all need to try to do at some point. Stop for a few moments, and be grateful for the team that we have, the players we have–and that means ALL of the players we have–and for the extended family that the team and players have made of all of us.
So, here’s what I’m going to suggest that Caps fans do this month. Every day, write down ten things about the Caps for which you’re grateful. Be genuine with this: save the left-handed gratitude for the message boards. Phrase it as, “I am so grateful that __________, because _____________.” Don’t leave out the BECAUSE: Having a reason for your gratitude will make it more effective.
After you’ve written your list, go back and mentally read, and more importantly, FEEL, what you just wrote. Only after each blessing, add an emphatic “Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU.” Feel those “thank yous” as deeply as you can, as well.
Let’s all try spending a month of our summer counting our Capitals blessings. It can’t hurt, and if it makes us love our team more, perhaps that may work to our spiritual benefit.
I’m not going to guarantee on-the-ice miracles if we all do this: guaranteeing miracles is above my paygrade. What I WILL guarantee, is that we’ll feel better about the Caps if we spend a month counting our blessings, than we will if we keep on counting our sorrows.
Who’s up for it?
See you tomorrow, with my first ten.
I’D RATHER COUNT MY BLESSINGS THAN MY DISAPPOINTMENTS
Best Comedy Short of the Summer, OR What I Wish I’d Said June 21, 2012Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.
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For those who haven’t been following the issue of the proposed new signs at Verizon Center, there was a hearing about it Wednesday afternoon. I had the time to attend, so I went down there, intending to be merely a show of support. I ended up testifying as a public witness, because out of all the interests represented at that hearing, NO ONE came forward to speak for the fans. No one. So when they put the call up for public witnesses, I stepped forward.
The rest is a blur. I don’t think I remember anything after that until I was nursing some Muesseli at the Au Bon Pain at 12th and E. I think I had one of the most epic cases of stage fright ever experienced in the entire history of mankind. I’m a fan, not a politician, and I looked and sounded like it. If you can find the video, look it up. It’ll be the most unintentional comedy gold that you’ll ever see.
My argument, from the perspective of a fan, goes something like this.
Someone was arguing at the hearing that new signs would benefit only one person. Um, excuse me, NO. Ted doesn’t just have that money sitting around: he earns it from ticket sales, concessions, and merchandise. Simply put, we, the fans, pay Ted that money. So it’s not HIS money: it’s the FANS’ money. It’s OUR money. So those signs would benefit THOUSANDS of people–the people who pay to attend events there at Verizon Center, who would otherwise have to absorb higher ticket prices. Every million bucks in ad revenue that the building makes when it’s empty, is a million bucks that doesn’t have to get made at the gate–in other words, out of my pocket, and out of the pockets of thousands of other hockey and basketball fans in this city. (As well as concert goers, horse lovers…you get the idea. Bottom line, it’s a LOT of people.)
When I first got my seats in 417, Row E, six years ago, I was paying somewhere around $27 a game–which works out to about $1200, in round numbers. My tickets this year were somewhere around $49 per–which works out to (again, round numbers) about two grand. I’m scared to think about where they’ll go next year, given the labor negotiations going on this summer, but I suspect they’ll be heading north again.
How much higher can they go? And if it gets that expensive just to get in the door of the place, what will become of the next generation of hockey fans? If prices go so high that it ends up being $100 to sit in 421 Row Q, how will a family be able to afford a night at the rink? From there, what becomes of the next generation of Washington hockey fans? From there, what becomes of the team itself in a generation? From there, what happens to Verizon Center? From there, what happens to the neighborhood?
As an aside: I don’t live in the neighborhood. I understand that. But it only makes sense that, just as the occasional hurricane is the price of living in Florida, and earthquakes of all sizes are the price of living in LA, showbiz glitz is the price of living in an entertainment district. Hurricanes and earthquakes can DESTROY a home–a worse possibility than a despoiled view, yes?–but people still live in those areas and deal with the possibility. Locating in an entertainment district and demanding a halt to the trappings of the entertainment industry, on its face, is simply short-sighted nimbyism. If you don’t like bright lights, don’t live in an entertainment district. That’s just common sense, I should think.
But back to my concern as a fan and season ticket holder. I am EXTREMELY concerned that if Verizon Center isn’t permitted to make more money from its exterior, then it’s going to have to make that much more money from its interior, and that means more money coming out of MY pocket. And there are thousands of other planholders, just like me, who have seen their ducats get more dear over the past few years.
Exterior signs, therefore, would not be a benefit to just one person. They would be a benefit to thousands of Verizon Center patrons, all of whom would be paying less for their tickets than they would if the signs were not permitted. And that money could be spent on a pre-gamer in the neighborhood, instead of being hoarded for the concession stands where, for instance, a 32-ounce Coke Zero sets me back $5.75 and doesn’t even get me past the second intermission.
The benefits of new electronic signs would be felt by thousands and thousands of Verizon Center patrons from all over the Washington region, and those benefits would ultimately flow to residents in the area around Verizon Center. The benefits of an unsullied view, however, would benefit only the few who happen to live and work in that neighborhood, and no one else. Where, then, is the greater good? I must respectfully submit that the greater good would result from allowing the signs, which would, yes, benefit ownership. But that benefit would then be felt by thousands of Verizon Center patrons, who would then pass the benefits along to the Gallery Place neighborhood.
Simply put, if ownership benefits, the fans will benefit, and ultimately, so will the neighborhood. But if the rising costs of Verizon Center are forced to be passed on at the gate, then we, the fans, lose; and ultimately, so will the neighborhood around Verizon Center.
So…that’s what I wish I’d said. More to the point, I wish I didn’t have to be the one to have said it. Frankly, I’m extremely surprised that I was the only fan who showed up to voice that concern, even though I didn’t get anywhere CLOSE to that in my remarks before the Council.
Officially, I can’t even say I spoke for everyone–I only spoke for myself as one single planholder. I wish that there had been other, more official (and better prepared!) fans there to raise that issue with the Council. I wish it hadn’t been me, to be honest. While my civic stances aren’t exactly a state secret, I do try to keep my hockey and my politics separate. Jumping headfirst in front of a hearing, without even a set of notes, isn’t something I intend to make a habit of, believe me. But somebody had to say it, and that somebody turned out to be me.
I hope I didn’t disappoint too much. I did the best I could, and I know it wasn’t enough.
So, while it was an honor and privilege to go up there, I hope I don’t have to go up there cold like that anytime soon.
UPDATE: Thanks to DC Sports Bog for the link love. Just to clarify: I don’t think ticket prices would necessarily go DOWN per se, I just think they won’t be going up AS FAST. I suspect that right now, if MSE raised all ticket prices to the point where they’d break even right away, the price shock would be so high there’d be a fan revolt. If what I’ve heard about MSE’s finances is all wool and a yard wide, ticket prices were so low for so long that there’s a not insignificant gap between what the gate is, and what it would have to be to break even. And with player salaries constantly going up, and (in the Caps’ case) a new CBA in the works, expenses may get higher than they’ve trended for the last few years–potentially leading to a larger operating loss going forward, even as ticket prices have gone up.
You don’t go up in front of a legislative body and say you’re losing money if you’re actually running in the black. Lying to lawmakers is bad form at best, criminal at worst. So if Ted’s on record saying he’s losing money, he really is losing money. Yes, the man’s got a net worth that’s more than the entire GDP of some small countries, but that kind of success ought to be emulated, not castigated. And a seven figure loss is a seven figure loss, no matter HOW much you make.
My point is that while I wouldn’t expect my tickets to get less expensive if those signs go up, at the very least, my price at least wouldn’t double up again in another eight years. That’s why I’m a firm supporter of the proposed signage.–CS