Classic Dishes...

The Prince Of Ties

Today, our long multinational nightmare is at an end. Commissioner Gary “Walking Asshat” Bettman announced that the National Hockey League owners have ratified the collective bargaining agreement that they basically sodomized out of the players last week, it’s all official, and the 2005-2006 NHL season is a go.

They held the Draft Lottery today, and one of Pittsburgh’s three ping-pong balls came out of the hopper first, so they get Sidney Crosby. I find a certain irony in the fact that the 30 NHL general managers spent the morning playing with their balls, something the REST OF US have been doing for the last year while the league and its players failed to get this ironed out.

They also announced several rule changes that will allegedly make the game more exciting: touch-up offsides is coming back, they have moved the goals back two feet and the blue lines two feet closer to the middle, they’ve eliminated the center red line for the purposes of determining if a two-line pass has taken place, a team that commits icing will not be permitted to change lines during the play stoppage, and goaltenders now will only be able to handle the puck behind the net in a designated trapezoidal area, and will be required to do so wearing smaller pads than the mattresses they wear now.

In addition, they promised us they will be cracking down on hooking, holding, and obstruction penalties, but they say that every year and it usually lasts about a month before the referees start to ignore them again. I expect this year to be no different.

The biggest change, however, is that there will be no more tie games during the regular season. The shootout has been adopted by the NHL.

Many have suggested that resolving a game with a shootout is like settling an basketball game with a game of H-O-R-S-E. Many would be right.

One of the great things about hockey was that it recognized that some nights, two teams are simply just as good (or just as bad), and that nothing was decided at the end of sixty-five minutes. And so each team gets a point (two points in the standings are awarded to a game’s winner) and we go on our way. Well, no more. The “gotta have a winner!” conditioning of the average American idiot sports fan has prevailed, and the dumbing down of the planet continues.

In the last week or so, the rumor that was buzzing around that the shootout would only take place after a five minute four-on-four overtime, followed by a three-minute three-on-three overtime. I could have lived with that. I’ve been advocating for OT to be extended to ten minutes for as long as I’ve been watching hockey, anyhow, and that seemed an acceptable compromise, especially with the amount of ice that would have been opened up during that three-a-side period. The chances of someone scoring in OT and avoiding the shootout would have been pretty high.

But that’s not the best part: Not only is the shooting happening immediately after the already-too-short five minute overtime, but instead of five participants per side taking part, like in, I don’t know, EVERY OTHER SHOOTOUT IN THE WORLD, there will only be three shooters per side. ‘Cuz, you know, that extra couple minutes the other four guys would have taken might be the difference between landing a TV deal and not. The NHL can’t even get a freakin’ shootout right.

So if a regular shootout is like playing H-O-R-S-E, the Shootout Lite is like playing H-O-R. Which, ironically enough, is exactly how I feel about Gary Bettman right now.

Buck Sucks

Yesterday was the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Detroit. Like most sports fans, I normally find most All-Star Games to be horrendously dull affairs, as they are exhibitions where the players spend three hours patting each other on the ass and playing at 50% so as not to get injured. However, baseball has impressed me just a little in the last couple years by making it worth something: the league that wins the All-Star Game is awarded home field advantage in the World Series. A small prize, sure, and a gimmick, but it at least makes me a little interested in the result.

I didn’t watch the broadcast on Fox. Why? Tim McCarver. I like Joe Buck fine…in fact I think he’s one of the brightest young broadcasters in the business. But Tim McCarver is a blithering idiot, and as a former sports broadcaster it hurts my head to watch him receive a paycheck for his moronic commentary.

So, it was the high esteem in which I hold Joe Buck that made me sad to see this. Apparently, during the game, some fan unfurled a mysterious banner over a Corvette ad in the outfield, designed to look like an ad for a website. The broadcast team covered it extensively, discussing among themselves what the banner might all be about, as if it were a large-scale version of the “John 3:16” stunt.

Except they KNEW what it was all about, because the whole thing was a stunt by Chevrolet, and Fox was completely in on it.

Man, I realize it’s Fox, and this shouldn’t surprise me. But up in that booth we expect the guys calling the game to be journalists, and behave accordingly. They are to report on what is happening on the field of play, use whatever expertise they might have to provide insight on that, and, yeah, pimp sponsors and the network, but there should be no question when said pimpage is going on.

That said, with some regret, we award an Oreck Vacuums “You Just Suck” award to Joe Buck. Your dad would never have done that, Joe.

(Giving McCarver one along with him would be redundant, as a charter member of the Suck Hall Of Fame.)

Here Comes The Boom

Here’s hoping The Four Of You enjoyed your Fourth, and that everyone still has all of their fingers and toes.

I was rescued from a day of sitting at home and watching the wall when some friends invited me to a Fourth Of July block party their culdesac holds every year. Quite the impressive setup…two grills were rolling, and there was a host of salads and chips and desserts and whatnot, but the Real Show was that one of their neighbors is apparently a licensed pyrotechnecian, and another was on the City Council or something and therefore able to ramrod through the necessary permits, and so the Blowing Shit Up portion of the evening was truly spectacular by neighborhood standards. We’re talking commercial quality shells (including some homemade mortars by said pyro guy), and a two-foot-across coil of firecrackers.

The firecracker thing is still kinda new to me. They have been most illegal in CA for as long as I can remember, so when my dad was able to score some down on the Wharf, they were both treasured and carefully rationed. One at a time. Always.

Well, here in Washington we have Indian reservations, which means illicit fireworks are readily available. One such place on the I-think-it’s-the-Tulalip reservation is a ginormous flea market of gunpowder and accellerants known colloqially as “Boom City”. And apparently you can get it ALL there. So blowing off firecrackers by the pack (or the bandolier, or the brick) is SOP here.

So they dropped this huge spool of exploding death, and lit it. And it went, steady at first, and then picking up an incredible amount of steam. And when the smoke cleared, there was a pile of debris fully a foot high that had to be swept to the side. Never have I seen such an example of combustible largesse.

Anyhow, it being unincorporated King County, apparently the standard Safe And Sane fare is okay. And in addition to the Main Event, many of the neighbors had the usual assortment of fountains and sparkers and otherwise.

Which brings me to the most ridiculous of all fireworks, the Piccolo Pete.

You remember these? About six inches tall, half an inch across, standing on a little base. Light the top, and it emits an angry little flame and an ear-piercing shriek for about fifteen seconds. Whee. That’s a peach, hon. Fire another one.

Piccolo Petes are the leftovers, the table scraps. They remind me of the bin of chocolate Ice Cubes by the register at the convenience store – you only buy them when you’ve already bought the good stuff and you still have a few bucks worth of your fireworks budget left over, and it’s not enough to actually buy something, you know, good.

“Hmm. Three bucks left. Aw, hell, gimme a box of Piccolo Petes.”

They are, in fact, the Ceramic Dalmatians of fireworks.

Eggs, Seen On TV

I’m watching Millionaire on GSN right now, and I just saw an ad for this.

If you don’t feel like following the link or are reading me via RSS or something, it’s an omelette pan that has a switch in the handle that makes the sides flip over and fold the thing. Valued at $70, yours today on Sale Of The Century for the low low price of just $19.99.

I have something like this in a kitchen drawer. It’s called a SPATULA.

Really, folks, is it that hard to fold a freakin’ omelette? Put in your filling, fold over the right third (with your handy-dandy $3 heat-proofed spatula), cook a little more (if you’re melting cheese or something), then slide the folded half out onto your serving plate and use the pan to fold in the other third. I just did it last night.

Plus, I can just imagine what fun it will be to clean all of the egg that oozes down into the crevices formed by the folding bits.

Going back to the previous post about People Being (Freakin’) Stupid, there must be a market for this crap or else they wouldn’t advertise it.

DD-R U Kidding Me?

In a bout of semi-random Web surfing, I came across this thread about DDR (Dance Dance Revolution), which if you’ve been under a rock for the last seven years or so is a video game where you are challenged to step on pads in time to music. It requires fast feet and a damned lot of memory and dexterity, and good DDR players are truly a sight to see.

Anyhow, this is one of your standard bitch threads about what annoys you when playing the game. And a lot of it is typical elitism (“OMG! I can’t stand it when someone plays Song X on EASY! Like, they’re wasting time I could be using to get an AAA rating on Song X+42!!!!111!!! LOL!!”), but some of them were generic arcade complaints that surprised the hell out of me, because it was stuff that simply WOULD NOT HAPPEN when I was an arcade rat in my teens. To wit:

  • Stealing tokens: A common bit of video game etiquette is to (ideally unobtrusively) place a quarter/token/whatever up on the lip of the marquee of the machine to indicate that you would like to play the next game. If several people are waiting their turn, you place your token in the line, and when your token is at the front of the line, you get to go. Apparently there are idiots now who think they can get away with attempting to pocket someone else’s token. Unbelievable.
  • Messing with the controls: There were more than a few complaints of people standing around and then stepping on the pads while you are playing to intentionally screw up your game. I would never DREAM of pushing a button on a machine someone else was playing. Ever.
  • Generally getting underfoot: There is a practice known as “shadowing”, which is when someone jumps up on the other unused pad (a DDR machine has two pads side by side, one for each player) while someone who is playing solo, and doing the steps for the song alongside. I would find this TERRIBLY distracting. There were also several complaints about parents with their rugrats letting said rugrats stumble around the feet of the active player instead of keeping them the hell out of the way, and then yelling at the player when the kid inevitably gets themselves hurt.

There were quite a few other complaints, some reasonable, some asinine, but these were the ones that jumped out at me. And all I can say is: What. The. HELL. When I play arcade games, anyone who gets so close to the screen that I can see their nostrils better than what I’m playing quickly receives repeated elbows to the ribs until they get the picture. Working the controls causes arms to flail, you know. Terribly sorry there. And, yeah, we had quarter-moochers, but anyone who tried to outright STEAL quarters in the coin line would be dealt with quickly, harshly, and often physically. And DO NOT TOUCH my control panel. You shouldn’t even be that close to me anyhow, but I’m paying for this game, and if I come up a smart bomb short because you thought you were being cute, I know who I’m taking out my frustration on.

Bottom line, if anyone pulled crap like this back in the day, they would be on the receiving end of a Grade-A asskicking. It didn’t happen. These were the biggest faux pas you could make in the scene. In 25 years of gaming, someone has touched my controls uninvited ONCE (costing me a man in a game of Tapper, by the way), and the only reason that guy didn’t get thrashed is because he was known for being mentally unstable anyhow, and I frankly didn’t wanna be entwined with him anymore than I already was by virtue of being regulars at the same arcade.

So the following question occurred to me: Have people just gotten ruder over the last ten-fifteen years or so? It’s not like the stuff above is some super-secret behavior that only arcaders know, it’s COMMON SENSE. Don’t steal. Don’t get in someone’s way if you can help it. Don’t screw someone else up if they’re doing something. Do you reach over and punch buttons on the checker’s cash register at the grocery store?

I’ve said many times: People Are (Freakin’) Stupid. Are they really THIS stupid? Even OUTSIDE of the red states?