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Manning-ology, Lady Byng, and the Pitfalls of Great Free Tickets

All your questions answered in this edition of The Bake Shop

Welcome to the Bake Shop, a warm place for the community to gather and chat about whatever happens to be on its collective mind. The apple cider is always spiked, the cookies might just be magic, and we’ll always serve you with no judgment. (And like all of the most worthwhile establishments, we maintain semi-cryptic hours.) This week you all had some great questions, the bulk of which happen to be hockey-related. But we welcome all comers, so feel free, going forward, to ask anything — everything! — by e-mailing triangle@grantland.com.

A couple of questions about the Lady Byng Trophy — the NHL award which recognizes (as the description delightfully puts it) “gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”
(1) Do players get annoyed at being nominated for the Lady Byng? Or winning it? Do the winners get picked on? Given the relish that hockey players seem to take in dishing out on-ice smack-talk, I suspect they do. I am sure, for example, that during the playoffs last year, Zdeno Chara shouted “Byng this, shorty” (followed by maniacal laughter) at Martin St. Louis every time he cross-checked him in front of the Bruins net.
(2) I can’t picture any other sport having a similar high-profile award for being a good guy during games/matches/rounds/whatever. Can you imagine who would win the Lady Byng in football? I mean, since Barry Sanders is long retired, it would almost have to be a punter every year, right?
— Fran C.

A binary system of classification exists in the NHL that I have never seen delineated so starkly in another sport: any given player, coach, GM, writer, retiree, fan, or broadcaster is either “all class” or “classless.” (Although it is possible and indeed common for the same person to be labeled as both.) The Lady Byng, first awarded by the wife of the Governor General of Canada in 1925, honors the former. And unlike other leagues’ awards, it’s not just for sportsmanship, or for humanitarian/community service efforts: The players have to actually be good. Many legendary names have been winners — guys like Mike Bossy, Ron Francis, Joe Sakic, Paul Kariya, Stan Mikita, Bobby and Brett Hull, and of course Wayne Gretzky. Still, it remains an easy target. Jeff Marek wrote that the lazy way to vote these days is “to look at the scoring leaders in the NHL and whomever had the least penalty minutes of the bunch gets the nod,” which is probably one reason why defensemen rarely ever win, no matter how honest their play. I like the suggestion of one of his commenters: have NHL referees vote, not hockey writers.

In 2003, nominee Alexander Mogilny called it “more of a consolation prize” and didn’t bother to show up to the NHL Awards to receive it (he won anyway). The next season, Tampa Bay Lightning teammates Brad Richards and Martin St. Louis, both up for the prize, handled it like a hot potato until they were reamed out by assistant coach Craig Ramsay for being ungrateful brats. (“I know me and Marty were fighting over who didn’t want it, and after Craig [talked], both of us really wanted it,” Richards said. Get Craig Ramsay to the NBA bargaining table stat!) It also doesn’t help matters — ahem, NHL — to have pronunciation-butchering Real Housewives of Beverly Hills up onstage to give out the award, although in fairness, some of the other presenters that night — Criss Angel — were actually more embarrassing.

Eli Manning : Peyton Manning

as

A) Elwood Blues : Jake Blues
B) Luke Wilson : Owen Wilson
C) Emilio Estevez : Charlie Sheen
D) Prince Harry : Prince William

Personally, I would go with “B.” Owen/Peyton are the more well known brand name and have had a greater run of sustained successes, but Eli/Luke have hung in there with some memorable games/roles as well (Luke was in two of the best comedies of the past 10 years, “Old School” and “The Royal Tenenbaums” as well as the very underrated “Idiocracy”) while having more than their fair share of clunkers along the way.

— Noah C.

I’ve always compared the Mannings to the Kennedys because there are some good Cooper/Joe Jr. parallels and Archie wishes he were Joe Sr.; my initial instinct was to go with (D) because I’ve always been partial to Harry, but after much thought I do believe you’re onto something here, particularly because of the thematic consistency between “Colts” and “Butterscotch Stallion.”

My wife asked me what I wanted to for Christmas and I said I wanted a Rangers Winter Classic jersey, but what number should I get? Now, I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to jersey numbers. I’m not one who likes to buy the jersey of the new guy on the team (Richards) or the young guy with a chance to be great … but might not quite make it (Dubinsky). I want my jersey to be timeless so I don’t feel stupid for having a #18 Tony Granato jersey 20 years later (and yes I owned one of those).

I also don’t want a jersey for a guy that didn’t actually play in the game. Based on that my thinking is to get a Lundqvist jersey, I’d rather get a #2 (my all time favorite Ranger), but can I count a guy who plays in the alumni game (if he even plays)?

— Mike G.

I’m in the same situation, and it’s making me realize how much the Rangers’ roster has changed in the past few years. No longer a team laden with rent-a-stars, the current Rangers lineup is filled with far lesser-known names. Agreed about Richards: It’s tough because he’ll ostensibly be in New York until the end of time, and as I type this he just scored a game winner, but it seems a little bit weird already getting the jersey of a guy who is so new to the team, especially when he won a cup elsewhere. Ryan Callahan is a solid pick, but he falls into a similar category as Brandon Dubinsky. (Ditto Derek Stepan, whom I love. The Rangers have so many Americans! USA!)

Marian Gaborik is obviously one of the team’s best players, but I don’t feel a connection with him on a personal level, you know? I would go with Avery, who has always been a guilty pleasure, but there’s no guarantee he’ll be on the team, and wearing an Avery jersey is a little bit too much of a “statement” these days. Brandon Prust is intriguing, but he’s a free agent after this season. For me it comes down to Callahan, Avery, or Lundqvist, and, like you, I think I’m going to lean toward King Hank. Of course, as soon as I do he’ll be out for a month with a groin injury. Is there a The Hockey News cover curse I should know about?

(Or you could please John Tortorella and get a Dan Girardi jersey. Actually, now that I think about it, I think I’m gonna get a custom Tortorella one made.)

As for Leetch, I think it’s safe to assume he’ll play in the Alumni Game, but I think if you’re gonna get a no. 2, you’re better off getting an old one and not one that’s all Winter Classic-y. (Related: I spent way too much time today peering at this totally sketchy eBay listing — “i had a friend who worked at madison sq garden in nyc. he was in the locker room quite a bit, and was able to get jerseys from some of the players. a couple he had autographed. no documentation with this unfortunately. priced accordingly. there is a little bit of bleeding of the ink, but decent looking” — with my finger hovering over the “Buy It Now.” Somebody tell me what to do!)

I graduated college this past spring and was lucky enough to start working at a bank in the city shortly there after. Question, to avoid awkwardness how do I delicately tell my friend’s parents what I am doing in my post college life while their kids are still job hunting? This is problematic especially at block parties when I am speaking to a friends parent and their son is enthusiastically encouraging me to do another funnel while the ketchup from his last 4 hot dogs holds a prominent spot on his face and CYO basketball jersey. Thanks.

— DJ M.

While your “block parties” (Plural?? And with funnels? Where is this suburban fratopia in which you live?) sound much more fun than any I’ve ever been to, they appear to be equally socially fraught. If you’re not dodging scary Jell-O with chunks of fruit in it, or little kids pedaling around furiously on those terrifying three-wheelers that strike you directly at calf height, you’re finding yourself face-to-face with Well-Meaning Adults, who are always the worst. Your buddy is, wisely, preemptively scaring these types away with his beer breath and mustard-stained visage. (We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume his behavior is part of a keen social strategy.) You unfortunately didn’t start drinking early enough to be equally repulsive. But you can get through this. Here’s how.

What you first have to realize is that parents are automatically programmed to compare their child to the rest of his friends. (This great scene in Baby Boom (from 2:30 to 5:12) shows that this happens even while children are still in the womb.) So in some ways, it doesn’t really matter what you specifically say — as soon as they hear the word “job,” their “why can’t you be more like …” chip will be automatically set in motion. Still, start by downplaying your role, maybe by rolling your eyes theatrically and saying, “Most of the job is just coffee and copies.” This is the sad 9-to-5 version of “models and bottles,” and like all good catchphrases it has two characteristics: (1) It’s incredibly lame, but (2) it’s totally memorable. Your friend’s mom will be repeating it in worried tones to all of her friends — “I just don’t want him to have to do something that’s all coffee and copies, you know?” while her son sits in the den talking shit into his headset to whatever remote 11-year-old he’s currently playing in Halo.

Even then, though, your friend’s parents may want to know how you got your gig. This is where you might just have to straight-up lie in order to turn the onus on them. “Oh, I couldn’t get any interviews on my own in this economy, so I had to go through connections.” (This might even be true.) I’d recommend invoking some rich uncle or “family friends” — if you say your parents directly pulled strings, it might come back to haunt you. This will help shift the pressure onto the parents to make them feel like the failures, which, I mean, they kind of are, ’cause just look at their son: He just stole that little kid’s trike and crashed into a tree.

I was born an Islanders fan who is just now getting into the NHL. I’m falling in love with hockey more and more each day and I wanted to know what are some of the siiiickest traditions in hockey? (Especially the Islanders traditions.)

— Mike E.

If you want to take a joyous romp through some of the funniest and most cherished hockey lore, I highly recommend checking out the “Guilty Pleasures” summer series from the Puck Daddy blog, all of which can be found here — it’ll catch you well up to speed on all the best fights, most colorful players, weirdest hockey terminology, and (most important) the ugliest jerseys in hockey history. More recently, I highly enjoyed this retrospective from Denver Post and Sports Illustrated writer Adrian Dater of some of the craziest things he’s seen in his nearly 40 years of covering the game.

Some of my own favorite hockey traditions include: the superstitions about not touching the Stanley Cup if you’ve not won it, and not setting foot on the team logo in the center of the locker room; the Detroit Red Wings’ “Legend of the Octopus” — see video below — and the Florida Panthers’ 1996 “Rat Trick”; the hazing prank of tricking rookies into taking a solo lap around the ice during warm-ups, and, of course, playoff beards. Your Islanders are said to be responsible for that last one, actually, so there you go. And on the topic of the Isles, as a Rangers fan I’ve always enjoyed the Potvin Sucks whistle and secretly appreciated the Chicken Dance retort at Nassau Coliseum.

As someone who often streams sports online (especially at work which means I’m often clicking away from the screen), I have a question: would you prefer a stream with a perfect picture but in a foreign language, or a choppy stream that’s in English?

— Tim R.

Well, if you’re having to spend time hiding the screen, you might value sound over picture, but I can’t stand choppy buffering. (Imagine that last part being said in a British accent and it sounds like something Peter Dinklage would yell at a hooker in Game of Thrones.) Watching sports in foreign languages is kind of fun! You always read about people who move to the U.S. and learn flawless English from watching soap operas — you’ll be saying things like “The Hall of Fame is run by the Toronto hockey cabal and unfairly biased against great players like Pavel Bure” in perfect Russian in no time!

Alright, I’ve seen you tweet about it before, but can I please know your innermost thoughts on Country Strong??? Don’t tell anyone this, but i sort of loved it. In a really odd way, but I thought it was completely and fantastically teetering on the edge of campy the whole time, but I frequently think of the best part when Garrett Hedlund says “and i think Mama Tried by Merle Haggard should be the national anthem” and if i ever in my life get to use that as a part of a pick-up line you bet your ass I’m going to take that chance.

— Andy R.

The best line about Country Strong came from my friend Matt, who tweeted: “Country Strong is Gwyneth Paltrow’s adaptation of Black Swan.” He’s so right: Both are stories about increasingly unhinged and/or delusional women with a rival — played by an actress who made her name on a TV show about high schoolers — nipping at her heels. (Both also include scenes with one actress’ head in the other’s lap, although unfortunately only one of these scenes is pornographic and involves tripping balls.) Both Gwyneth and Natalie Portman did much of their own “stunt work,” as it were, with Portman taking her Method arabesques so far she ended up knocked up by her choreographer.

Both plots have completely insane avian storylines: You’ve got the wings sprouting from Portman’s shoulder blades in Black Swan (bolstering my theory that the whole film is just Morgellons disease propaganda), and in Country Strong you have my favorite plot device of 2011: the pet bird as metaphor for miscarried fetus. I’d argue that the movie’s best Garrett Hedlund line isn’t the one listed above, although that one is excellent and you should definitely get girls with it somehow, but rather “I’ve got someone here who wants to see you” or whatever it is that he says as he SLIDES A BOX WITH A BABY BIRD IN IT UNDER A BATHROOM STALL TO CHEER GWYNETH UP. I can’t even begin with this movie. Anyway, they also both have the same ending. The only difference between the two films is that I liked only one of them. If you know anything about me, you’ll know which one that was.

Speaking just physically, is Zdeno Chara the most intimidating athlete in modern sports? Sure Shaq in his prime, but there were plenty of other seven footers in the league, and everyone in the NBA is big to some extent. But I can not think of anyone in the NHL who approaches this man beast.

— Adam R.

Hey, our second “I’m terrified of Chara”-related question! I have no proof of this because I was never able to find reference to it anywhere online, but my favorite moment from the first game of the NHL season was when Pierre McGuire excitedly referred to Chara as “the meanest mother in the valley.” I love it because it makes both no sense and ALL THE SENSE. The man shook the Stanley Cup around like it was a mere championship belt. And thanks to him, a Boston Bruins pregame Veterans Day ceremony this weekend veered from tears to laughter faster than an Irish funeral the second Chara stepped out next to the U.S. soldier and his family. Granted, his skates gave him extra height on an already 6-foot-9 frame, but the guy looked like a different species. All respect to our troops, obviously, but it was hard to watch and not briefly think, “Whoa, too bad he’s not an American.” (Although according to these height charts, he’d be too tall for any armed force except the Navy. Imagine him in a wetsuit?!)

Now that your former stomping grounds at Goldman are overrun with Occupy Wall Street, how do you think you would have reacted to having to work by them? Mostly, I’d be mad because I imagine they all walk slow and I’d have to elbow them out of my way while walking to the office.

— Robert B.

GS was/is pretty protected by virtue of being on the far west side of the West Side Highway — it’s the modern-day equivalent of a castle with a moat. And anyway, I took cabs every day, which was really the extent of my being a “fat cat.” What else were they paying me for? But one writer who works right near all the action described the weirdness of proximity pretty well. By the way, without getting political, I did want to point out that until shit hit the fan Monday night in Zuccotti Park, one of the crazier things I had read about Occupy Wall Street was how New York cops were telling street riffraff around the city to “take it to Zuccotti” (and, I read somewhere, telling recently released prisoners that they could go down there for free food) in an effort to shake up the encampment. That’s some Hamsterdam-level ish.

Is there anything better than getting free tickets to sporting events? I work in purchasing and one of my vendors has really nice season tickets to both the Bruins (4 rows back from the ice in the corner) and the Red Sox (20 rows back behind home plate). Anyway, should I feel obligated to share the wealth with my coworkers (none of whom I’m friends with outside of work) or am I in the clear to take my own friends?

— Alex B.

Nothing beats that first time you use kickass free tickets, when you expect nothing and are delighted by everything — that realization you don’t have to take the escalator five more levels up like you usually do, this is your floor, followed by the interaction when you come out of the tunnel and the usher, instead of glancing tight-lipped at your ticket and pointing up yonder into Siberia, is instead all, “Good evening and welcome! It’ll just be 20 rows down and to the left,” and then the moment when you’ve barely gotten into your seats before some perky staffer is there with a giant TI-83 calculator-looking contraption (actually, these days I assume it’s an iPad) and ready to take your order, and you don’t even feel guilty about a $9 hot dog because these seats were FREEEE!

But you need to be careful or else you’ll find yourself like a heroin addict, or so I hear, always chasing that original high. You start to gripe at the little things — ugh, it’s so annoying we’re not right on the aisle; man, if only we were five rows down, we would be on TV; there really could be more cinnamon in this artisanal pulled-pork sandwich — and soon your friends want to go see a casual ballgame on a nice day in May and you’re like, psh, sorry, if it’s not Club Level Diamond Platinum Elite I’d rather just stay home, it’s not worth it. (This isn’t limited to sports — after years of trying, I recently hit the lowest rung of the Delta medallion program and I’m already feeling this way about air travel. Free toothbrush and socks or GTFO!)

Anyway, definitely take your own friends, but just try to mix in the token invite to your coworkers here and there so they don’t get suspicious or jealous. Ask them with really short notice, or take them to a lesser game and save the good ones for your pals. I’m probably violating workplace etiquette here, but whatever, I bet they totally forgot to replace the milk yesterday, so they are, too.

Katie Baker is a staff writer for Grantland.


Previously from Katie Baker:
The Best Team in the NHL
Wedded Blitz! The October Marriage Season
The Rise of the Female Distance Runner
Benching Ovechkin
The Horrible Habs
Coming to Grips With the Winter Classic
The Endless Battle Over Hockey Fights

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Filed Under: Eli Manning, Katie Baker, People

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Katie Baker is a staff writer at Grantland.

Archive @ katiebakes

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