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The Reducer: Week 26, Money, Power, Respect

Hockey Nicknames, the Evil of James Dolan, and Whom to Follow on Twitter

All that and more in this week's Katie Baker mailbag

Quick hockey related request: can you do something to have all of Time Warner or James Dolan whacked? You’re a Rangers fan, you have a Twitter following… the best part of the Tri-State area is all the local teams. This dopey standoff is beyond the pale.

— Vikram B.

The war of attrition between Time Warner and the various Dolan-owned MSG Networks (which were yanked from the TVs of 2.8 million subscribers on January 1 after Time Warner refused to pay rising prices) is really a race to the bottom. Dolan is Dolan, of course, but the alternative isn’t much better: Everyone has their own brutal Time Warner Cable stories, to the point where recounting them ranks just between complaining about your fantasy team and describing last night’s dreams on the “nobody gives a shit” scale.

The current feud has all the trappings of a lesser-of-two-evils fight: lame dueling websites, “watch parties” that draw people who appear to insinuate that an open-bar wristband is going to help them get laid, and two unsavory behemoths who prey on a combination of disgust, distrust, and latent fear. Actually, trying to choose whom to side with on this one is pretty decent practice for the ongoing Republican primaries.

I like how this request comes from a Rangers supporter, by the way; Knicks, Nets, Devils, and Islanders fans are like “eh, take your time, there’s better competition on the Bachelor.” I mentioned this last week, but for Rangers fans: Was there anything more terrifying than the brief James Dolan cameo in the locker room post-Winter Classic, as shown on 24/7?! It was like those scenes in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory where each kid finds the golden ticket and then the scary man with the glasses shows up and starts whispering in their ears. Don’t listen to him! He’s gonna destroy you! Next thing you know Dolan is going to force Henrik Lundqvist to play a few sets with JD and the Straight Shot and the rattled goaltender’s save percentage will swiftly plummet.

I was going to ask for your thoughts of the Bruins/Canucks game and also if you have seen two teams hate each other so much after having played a total of 8 games against each other to reach this point, but a more important question arises — Alain Vigneault vs. Claude Julien in the octagon, who ya got?

— Ryan F.

Hockey now has its own euphemism for the Octagon, thanks to Brian Burke, and that’s “a rented barn in Lake Placid.” Back in the day, when the two were both defensive teammates for the CHL’s Salt Lake Golden Eagles, I might have put my money on Claude Julien. (Would you want to mess with this mustache?) But these days, I think Vigneault would win handily: The man barely seems to have aged since his own playing days. At any rate, hockey fans who have been force-fed a nonstop diet of back-and-forth sniping between the two coaches ever since this weekend’s hatred-fueled and cheap-shot-filled Stanley Cup rematch would probably be rooting for that Lake Placid barn to collapse.

Does it make you uncomfortable the go-to Knicks fan statement since the season started has been, “just wait until Baron Davis gets here”? Has there ever been a more depressing final piece to a supposed championship puzzle?

— Michael L.

But the real question is, WHEN WILL JARED JEFFRIES BE BACK IN THE LINEUP? This is the latest thing I’ve read about the Knicks, and it’s so bleak that the contrarian in me is actually cheered by it. I spent the last three weeks at my parents’ house with no access to any Knicks games that weren’t nationally televised, and I was lucky, I think, because scanning Twitter game after game has felt like thumbing through an old-timey flip-book in which every picture is a progressively tremblier-lipped, scrunchier-eyed face of a baby with colic. (Or maybe that’s just Mike Bibby.) I’m feeling really nostalgic for the lockout right about now. Go New York go New York go!

My friend is forcing me to get in to hockey in exchange for her beginning to follow baseball. She’s given me an assignment analyzing the trade market for the Caps; I have no idea. Help?

— David I.

First of all, I’m so intrigued by this friendship and want to know more. Is this the first time you’ve given each other this kind of homework? I’m imagining the text messages: “I need 500 words on Dan Snyder, and I need it yesterday.” Are you guys the product of homeschooling or something? What are you making her do research about? (I vote for “Tommy John; Bodies, Gone: Whose Career Will Be More of a Letdown, Strasburg or Zimmermann?”) or are you saving yourself for a mid-season assignment?

Anyway, the timing on this research report is a little bit difficult. We’re nearing that midpoint of the NHL season where the trade deadline’s buyers and sellers are beginning to be sifted apart. But the Caps’ direction remains maddeningly unclear. The team was widely lauded this summer for making the kind of offseason moves — adding grit, shoring up goaltending — that could bridge the gap between its annually strong regular-season teams and disappointing playoff performances. Instead the Capitals, who fired head coach Bruce Boudreau just over a month ago, sit in 10th place in the East, two points out of playoff contention. (I’m sure most people who spotted tonight’s Washington-Pittsburgh game on the calendar at the start of the season assumed it would be a battle for Eastern Conference supremacy, not a fight between two teams currently on the bubble.)

Before Washington took on the Rangers on December 28, SiriusXM’s Josh Rimer tweeted, “Been told if Washington Capitals Lose at home to NY Rangers tonight expect a Shake up, and when I say shake up I’m talking Trade.” Instead, the Caps embarked on the start of a four-game win streak in which they outscored opponents 14-5. Coming off the heels of two recent 5-2 losses to San Jose and Los Angeles, though, the whispers have returned, with on-the-block names ranging from talented but expensive soon-to-be free agent Alexander Semin to oft-injured but multiple-time Norris Trophy candidate Mike Green. There’s still about six weeks until the deadline, and I would be surprised if the Caps unloaded either. (They’re 9-1 when Green is in the lineup, for starters.) But then again, the Caps have been surprising me all season long. (PS: If you want to turn the tables back on your friend, just casually ask whether she thinks it’s possible that, if the league adopts some sort of NBA-like one-player-per-team contract amnesty next season in the wake of a renegotiated CBA, Ovechkin could be a dark-horse candidate. That ought to rile her up.)

I sat here, day after Christmas, flipping through Joe Brown and Levy, Phillips & Konigsburg asbestos-litigation commercials, when I came across what I think is the catalyst for the rash of teen flicks in the late 1990’s: Can’t Hardly Wait. Jennifer Love Hewitt in her prime (and when promise rings meant something), the great Ethan Embry, Jamie Pressly dressed similar to her My Name is Earl character, Lauren Ambrose pre-Six Feet Under, Peter Fascinelli, the Swedish exchange student?  I believe this movie influenced everything that came after it. (American Pie was great, but the virginity thing was just one of like six storylines in Can’t Hardly Wait.) I don’t think the movie gets its proper due. Your thoughts?

— Ryan P.

John Hughes just rolled over in his grave. Still, I completely agree that when it comes to that specific late-’90s era of high school films, Can’t Hardly Wait was superior to comparables like She’s All That and 10 Things I Hate About You (although the latter earns additional ’90s points by virtue of a Shakespeare-derived plot).

Can’t Hardly Wait was a movie so dimly star-studded that Jenna Elfman, Melissa Joan Hart, Jerry O’Connell, and Breckin Meyer were all in it … in uncredited roles. The credited actors are even more amusing to see: Selma Blair played the part of “Girl Mike Hits On #1.” Jason Segel made his debut appearance, before Freaks and Geeks, as “Watermelon Guy.” The movie included not one but two songs by Smash Mouth. I still compare a certain kind of person to Trip McNeely. And of course, the beer has gone bad, nobody drink the beer. I CAN’T FEEL MY LEGS! (That actor, by the way, went to MIT and Yale Law and is now the subject of headlines like “President Obama nominates Professor Korsmo for key administration post.” It’s just like the plot of the film!)

A few other thoughts on this movie and others in its important genre:

  • If it/they came out while you were actually in high school, congratulations: You belong to the forgotten demographic of humans who are neither Gen X nor Millennials, and you are doomed to a lifetime of being unfairly lumped in with kids who are currently 14 years old.
  • Perusing IMDb for the last 45 minutes has yielded sentences like “[Larisa Oleynik's] big break came when she was eight. She had gotten the part of young Cosette in a production of “Les Miserables.” Her costar was Rider Strong, playing Gavroche.”
  • I’m not sure what’s less surprising: that this movie is happening, or that the entire cast was available to be in it.
  • I know it’s a cliche that youth is wasted on the young, etc., etc., but as I sit here thinking about a movie based entirely around one epic high school house party, I’m getting upset that it’s mainly 16- and 17-year-olds who get to experience the sublime wonder. Sure, when you get older you can still race-drink beer out of ice cube trays through straws while two people you’ve known since first grade fondle each other three feet away; declare seven different people your “new favorite person” over six different joints; squirrel away a tray of pizza bagels and a six-pack of beer in someone’s mom’s bathroom for later consumption; wake up on a pool chair, wipe the drool off your mouth, and mix yourself whatever’s left of the ginger ale and vodka; or hide in the woods wearing only a towel until the cops’ flashlights retreat into the distance. You can still do all those things, sure, but you’ll never again do them all on the same night.

Are you all in on Eli, like full on Eli love blinders or do you know that deep down inside him there’s the awful Eli ready to come back at any moment and throw 3 INTs like all of us non-New Yorkers and Manning haters love to see? 

— Ted C.

Do they sell “full on Eli love blinders” at the NFL store, or would I have to go to some seedy concern in the West Village to procure them, like chaps? The Giants’ game this weekend against the Green Bay Packers is sure to be a shootout, which is good news for the Giants: They’ve shown they can bounce back even from monster mistakes. The Giants tend to play up against good teams and lay eggs against bad, and this Packers team is definitively the former. It will be interesting to see whether the Packers hang back and try to draw interceptions — last time the teams played, Green Bay returned an errant Eli throw for a touchdown — or try to cause something that I honestly think I dread more than a pick, and that’s a patented Manning fumble.

Has there been a changing of the guard as far as wedding honors go?  What I mean is that, in the old days (pre-2002), the greatest honor for the friends of the couple were Maid of Honor and Best Man.  But has that now changed such that the greatest honor is the friend you draft to get certified as a minister online and perform the ceremony?  If so, how do you decide whether it is a friend of the bride or the groom?

— BD F.

You’re right that more and more couples are choosing to go the mail-order route when it comes to officiating their weddings. Between the Church of Spiritual Humanism and the Universal Life Church there are a number of ways to find a suitable — and legally recognized — alternative to an, um, more conventional religious arrangement. In many cases, this doesn’t necessarily impact the best man or maid of honor decisions, but rather allows someone like an aunt or a mutual friend of the couple to have an important role in the wedding without having to squeeze into an orange taffeta bridesmaid frock or reenact the plot of The Hangover in Vegas.

This 2008 Wall Street Journal piece outlines a number of options, adding ominously that “The Universal Life Church Monastery even gave us the power — though advised caution — to perform exorcisms.” Of all the possibilities it outlines, the best one may be The Church of the Latter-Day Dude, which is inspired by The Big Lebowski and according to its website is “the slowest-growing religion in the world” and inspired by Taoism. “The originator of Taoism, Lao Tzu, basically said ‘smoke em if you got em’ and ‘mellow out, man,'” the What is Dudeism? page explains. “Although he said this in ancient Chinese so something may have been lost in translation.” I’ve yet to see any Dudeist officiators in a New York Times announcement, although now I’ll be keeping an eye out: It seems like a pretty sure sign of a sure-to-be excellent wedding and marital union, although that just may be, like, my opinion, man.

While I’ve come a long way since my shitty dial up modem, I am still a luddite by 28-year-old standards.  I finally got my first smart phone last month, and have only now discovered Twitter — so really, I’m just hoping for some mercy and some guidance out of the dark ages. Who do you think are the five (or ten) most interesting, funny, irreverent, or self-aware athletes/celebrities to follow? (So far, I have you to thank for the considerable joy Ilya Bryzgalov has brought to my life (and probably Simmons + Kia to thank for the heads up on how dry-funny Blake Griffin is)).

— Noah J.

In no particular order whatsoever, and with 100 percent certainty that I am missing some of the best and most important ones, and with the warning that I am basically completely disregarding your request for “five (or ten) … athletes/celebrities,” here are a motley many to get you started, each one linking to what I feel is a representative tweet. Sorry/you’re welcome:

1. Hockey: I like to imagine @leafsbb20 replying to tweets with his feet on his desk, his tie draped around his shoulders, and his teeth holding a stogie … Russian Twitters are the best Twitters, and @anisimov42 is no exception … @ryanwhitney6 is like every Masshole that I’ve ever known and loved … @b_ryan9 knows beauty when he sees it.

2. Football: If you want a little Zen amid your violence, you’ll want to follow @arianfoster … NFL kickers like @chriswarcraft make for great culture critics … Underneath all of @tpolamalu‘s hair are Eli Manning levels of childlike wonder.

3. Basketball: For best use of ellipses and Italglish, I present @gallinari8888@charlesoakley34 just wants to know how you’re doing … @chrisbosh is such a gentle creature … @notwaltfrazier is magnificent, and reminiscent of my childhood.

4. Baseball: I … I have no idea. Sorry.

5. Broadcasters: It’s impossible not to read every @maddogunleashed tweet out loud with a speech impediment … I hope @collinsworthnbc gets back to tweeting more now that the season is winding down … @buck has been earning rookie of the year status … YKNOW @DONCHERRYPARODY IS A BEAUTY. (THUMBS UP.)

6. “Celebrities”: I have to restrain myself not to retweet everything @marthastewart has to say … @winklevoss is real, and he’s spectacular … Who does @gwynethpaltrow have to bang to get the latest Coldplay album? … The usual rules of capitalization don’t apply to @spikelee.

7. Proving Christopher Hitchens Wrong, One Tweet at a Time: @jpressler comes 100 percent Lloyd Blankfein approved … @meganamram has the world’s most glamorous avatar … @mindykaling is judging you while spilling yogurt on herself … I’m kind of scared of @kellyoxford, to be honest.

8. Two Men Who I Get Mixed Up With Each Other All the Time But in a Good Way: @swansburg and @sternbergh. Sorry, you two.

9. People Who Know Way More Than You About Stuff But Aren’t Dicks About It: In the trash heap of the Internet, @brendankoerner mines gems like no one else … @felixsalmon runs the numbers so you can sound interesting at cocktail parties … and @maudnewton tells you what to read, to the same effect.

10. Defiers of Description (“Potpourri”): When he’s not evaluating fine delicacies, @maxabelson is interviewing billionaires … It’s possible that @albomike hates you, but you probably deserve it … It’s @downgoesbrown‘s whimsical world, we’re just all trying and failing to be funny in it … @colsonwhitehead can write a novella in 140 characters … And I think this random dude @amirch729 might be my long-lost brain twin. (I’m adopted, so it’s totally possible.)

Bakey – Have you noticed how hockey players always add “-y” to the end of everyone’s name?

— Jim S.

It’s either that or an -er, an -o, or an -sy. (My favorite gratuitous hockey “nickname” was when a friend of mine in college with the last name “Mayer” was called “Mayersy.”) And if your last name is Campbell, you’re automatically “Soupy”; that’s just the way it goes. Justin Bourne once wrote a very handy reference guide: “The ‘sy’ ending is pretty elite. It’s SUPER chummy, and might precede a hug.” There’s a handful of guys in the NHL whose given names already seem hockeyfied, like T.J. Oshie, Clayton Stoner, and Ron Hainsey, which almost makes me suspicious — like these guys were actually born Oshkowitz, Gladstone, and Hainesworth but some overworked youth hockey clerk decided to just skip a step. Name truncations back at Ellis Island may now be considered a myth, but this? I believe this is exactly what happened.

Hey outdoor fitness runners, serious question: What is the function of wearing shorts over your long running pants?

— Joe M.

This question, about the workout-attire equivalent of wearing a T-shirt over a turtleneck, was loosely asked of me on Twitter; within seconds someone had replied with the definitive answer: “To conceal your junk bulge.” (I won’t pause to think about all the women I see in this kind of getup.) I was glad for the intel, because I’m not quite at “outdoor fitness runner” status: Let’s just say that I asked for a Fitbit for Christmas and when I read the instructions that women should attach the device to their bras, my first thought was that I would have to start wearing one. Between this step forward and these essential “27 Rules of Conquering the Gym” (no. 4 really speaks to me if you substitute the New Yorker with Vanity Fair), I can already tell that 2012 is going to be a great ye — oops, gotta go, my Easy Mac’s getting cold.

Katie Baker is a staff writer for Grantland.


Previously from Katie Baker:
The Big, Bad Bruins Are So, So Good
Wedded Blitz: December in the New York Times Wedding Section
The Sacre Bleu Issue With the Canadiens’ New Coach
The Hidden Drama in HBO’s 24/7
Hockey’s Fighting ‘Problem’
The NHL Coaching Carousel Spins Off Its Axis

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Filed Under: Bake Shop, Hockey, Internet, Katie Baker, People, Series, Twitter

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Katie Baker is a staff writer at Grantland.

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