Archive for July, 2011

Artful Escape

In this section I will attempt to convey my ability to form sentences in a way that tells a story that does not involve reporting on sports. Reflections, current events, or random thoughts are what you will most likely see here. If anyone has any recommendations feel free to leave them in the comments section. Enjoy!

Most of my life revolves around sport. Whether it be playing, watching, reporting, debating, scheming, coaching, critiquing, or criticizing, it never ends. And while most people use sport as a way to escape from their normal lives for a few hours, any of the aforementioned activities take more in-depth thought than my day job. While I love sports, I also need to escape from it for some periods of time. Whether that be 45 minutes or an entire day, the length doesn’t matter, the getaway does. Obviously an escape needs to be something that eases your stress, brings you peace of mind, clears your head, and constantly entices you to stay lost forever.

I am lucky enough to have two. In the winter it is snowboarding, in the summer it is surfing. This is not to say that playing sports is not relaxing, but for an overly competitive person it is usually more important to perform well and win than to relax during game play. When taking into account the prerequisites for an ‘escape’, sports simply do not fit the bill.

There are no words that can describe what it is like to glide down an untouched forest of pure powder as the sun comes up over the mountains in the distance. As the brightness and warmth of the morning sun combine with the frigid mountain air and heaps of snow a feeling of oneness with the earth uncontrollably washes over you as if you were simply breathing in happiness. I understand that not everyone has a connection quite like that. Some people view snowboarding as a nuisance to their skiable terrain, others are frustrated with even learning the activity and often choose to quit after landing on their rear-end a thousand times during the first two days, rendering them unable to sit down comfortably. But for those that stick it out there is a love affair that cannot be achieved through menial tasks.

Some people choose to view snowboarding as an art, and it doesn’t have to be the ‘Shaun White’ version of snowboarding that involves multiple in-air spins while traveling at 40 miles per hour while simultaneously grabbing sections of the board that many people can’t reach while sitting; it can be viewed as art when you carve your own niche into the side of a mountain that was there millions of years before you and will be there millions of years after you leave. It can leave you with an added realization that the world does not revolve around you, so don’t take it for granted. Don’t take any of it for granted.

While the two seem similar the feelings created during the acts of snowboarding and surfing are very different, which is not necessarily a bad thing. What would be the point to copying the same task when there are so many others to enjoy?

Surfing brings with it new sensations, new challenges, and new goals. The next wave you catch is guaranteed to not be the same as the last. Much the same way that a golfer is said to never hit the same shot twice a surfer will never catch the same swell. Each wave breaks a bit different, bringing with it immediate actions required in order to actually stay up and continue the ride. For a true surfer these reactions become instinctive and reading the wave is more of an art form than an assignment.

There are few things harder to do than catch a wave that Mother Nature created (well technically the moon), stand up on a fiberglass board, and ride it longer than 4 seconds down the line. This is why most memories are created while sitting in the water and waiting for something to come in, instead of the swift process of surfing.

There are perks, some of which are visual, some of which are not, and others that are personal to each surfer.

On the East Coast the ability to watch the sunrise over the horizon is offered. A precious moment that causes the water to glisten as far as the eye can see, something that is a mainstay for morning surf sessions and often overlooked. Most people are more interested with watching the sunset than watching the sunrise. However, to me, the idea of watching the day start is more exciting than watching it end.

Sometimes the possibility to see a pod of dolphins or a school of fish comes about; other times its just miles of water that can be glassy, clean, rough, weak, or huge. At that moment all of the stress that one can carry is replaced with an idea; that nothing can come close to bathing in salt water, freezing your toes off, and knowing that there is one good wave that can immediately help you forget all about that, all you have to do is catch it. When you are pulling enough seaweed out of your hair two days after the fact to start a small colony you will be hard pressed to not smile, even though it’s rather gross.

Given the amount of people that make up our world, and the affinity fellow humans seem to have for doing things together, it is tough to whittle out some time for singularity, but it is only in those moments when we can truly appreciate everything and nothing at the same time.


What’s With all the Black and Gold

As with many fans of the Philadelphia Flyers I waited with baited breath on July 1st. I waited, and waited, and waited some more. In fact I’m still waiting for the organization to make that one big move that everyone was sure would come. Perhaps not to the levels of Steven Stamkos, but maybe Ales Hemsky or Paul Stastny or another player on that level. After all, there had to have been someone the flyers brass were targeting, right? It seems as if that was common knowledge.

After bidding adieu to Mike Richards and Jeff Carter my Philadelphia Flyers t-shirt collection has been dwindling. I have been forced to retire my previous sweaters and players’ shirts emblazoned with their names due to common fandom rules. If there is any reason for a big move to be made it is clearly my wardrobe, well and for the team to get better, but that is obviously second.

First came the news that no offer would be made to Steven Stamkos, arguably the second or third best player in the league. Given the price tag to acquire him, and the subsequent truckload of money it would take to sign him to a long-term contract it was an easy pill to swallow. Then came reports that the Flyers were one of the frontrunners to land Jaromir Jagr.

Jaromir Jagr

Was I supposed to gasp? They were going to possibly sign a guy who has over 600 career goals and nearly a thousand assists in his NHL career, how could that news not be exciting?

Because Jagr is not Teemu Selanne, a player in the twilight of his NHL years but is still a stud. He’s not even Niklas Lidstrom caliber these days. Granted, Lidstrom is a defenseman, but the point is that he cannot lead a team any which way you slice it. There is a reason Jagr played in Russia. You might be saying that that reason is his desire to play in his home country, but the simple fact that he signed a one year deal to play for the Flyers immediately disproves that notion. Add to the over-the-hill comments the understanding that Jagr was a Penguin, and will always be remembered as a Penguin, and you have a bigger reason for dislike. Sure, he was a Ranger for a quick second among a few other quick layovers, but don’t act like it won’t be weird when Jagr dons his number 68 orange and black sweater and you are asked to cheer.

That was the biggest hurdle I had to jump in order to be okay with the signing, and just about the time I came to grips with the idea, the Flyers decided to sign another Penguin. Not a “once beloved” penguin, or a former penguin, but Maxime Talbot. Paul Holmgren must have been playing a joke. He scored two goals in game seven of the Stanley Cup finals to bring the Stanley Cup to Pittsburgh, but outside of that is there a Talbot highlight of him playing hockey that I’ve missed? I understand that he had a few quality segments in HBO’s 24/7, but that doesn’t exactly convey greatness. This is the same guy who fought Dan Carcillo and then put his finger up to his mouth to silence the Philadelphia crowd before the penguins came back from three goals down to win; he is now a Flyer, and everyone seems to be okay with that.


Yes, really. I’ve said it before and it still rings true, as fans we have to cheer when our team tries to make itself better. We cheer, scream, throw things, lose our voices, waste our money, and dissect every pass, shot, and hit the players make because we want to be watching hockey in June. We want to be able to wear a Flyers shirt proudly in the beginning of summer and all the way through until next season.

Maxime Talbot

Talbot and Jagr are not the sexiest choices that were available, but their mix of veteran knowhow and playoff leadership may help propel the team to new heights. With a large make-up of young talent these types of men are a necessity, and will hopefully make their money as much in the locker room as they do on the rink. When you spend your time looking at the box score of the game this upcoming season you will not be getting the entire story. Talbot is scrappy, a quality that goes for miles in Philadelphia sports allure, and Jagr is a rental that might work out nicely for a quick jolt to the top of the heap. Most important, they’ve been there before, something you cannot put a price on. Maybe it is a Talbot speech that will help the Flyers overcome a hole to come back in the third period to win a game, or maybe it is Jagr’s prowess with the puck in tight spaces that will help vault Brayden Schenn’s young career to new heights when given free space. Their productivity is beyond points per game or plus/minus numbers, and at some point we will all understand that. Hopefully in the playoffs.

Talbot Hoisting the Cup

The signings took a while to get used to, and seeing Jagr in a Flyers jersey will be weird for quite some time, especially when flashbacks of him in black and gold drift into my memory, but with the absence of any big move you have to be okay with the idea that the Flyers are building this team the right way, without suckering themselves into big contracts. Maybe they still have a trick up their sleeve regarding the eventual destination of Sergei Bobrovsky, but for now we can just sit and ponder what is to come.

Although my closet is a little mad at them for waiting.

Melrose quality Mullet