OMW’s I-95 (Abbreviated) Adventures, Vol. LXXVI


OMW’s I-95 (Abbreviated) Adventures, Vol. LXXVI
M.D. Wright
5.13.2017

I’m going to try and make this less of a complaining session and more of an overall storytelling deal. Besides, despite the entire population of Virginia being on I-95 on Friday between graduations, the fact it was a Friday and heading into a holiday weekend, the rain and just Virginia drivers (who instinctively resort to driving 15 miles below the speed limit in the left lane on the highway at the mere hint of drizzle from the skies), I was able to make a 700-mile round-trip day trip without incident.

Not that there were no close calls, though.

I had a couple of things lined up to handle in both Virginia and North Carolina, and also in recoup mode, as I have a few people who owe me money and are yet running away like the kid who owed Calogeno money on “A Bronx Tale.” It is what it is. Sometimes you just have to write off people as lousy degenerates, charge the loss to the game, not risk your future or your freedom and ensure that you have paperwork on everyone. Including relatives. It is a sad deal, but that’s where we are in 2017, where people brush off commitments, breach contracts, and will make up any lie imaginable to avoid responsibility and accountability from others.

Despite my best laid plans and air-tight planning schedule, there are things you cannot prepare for or control. Traffic being one of them. Particularly traffic in the rain. But before I even got to that point, the day started off in trash fashion almost from the get-go. I had not slept much all week since the previous weekend, because I had two major final presentations to handle, and had been doing some writing submissions to a couple of outlets; in addition to an ongoing search for a full-time gig. Time consuming on every end, and stressful. This led to one day of not sleeping at all for 48 hours despite being dead tired. That’s how much my mind was running since the month of May began.

Fast forward to Thursday, I am at the finish line with my very last class and very last assignment. I had a bad feeling something was going to happen, because nothing ever goes fully as planned (with logic, reason and mitigating factors all considered in the planning process). Sure enough, a mere 5 minutes away from Georgetown to deliver my final group project, I am riding with one of my friends into Washington and get sideswiped by Batman (or should I say Catwoman, since it was Black woman?) and nearly knocked into traffic coming into Washington from Route 50 West. As it were, my man’s door got smashed in, and the bumper knocked completely off his car. No physical harm done, although we were both only mere feet from being on the local news with people calling around ensuring that we were both dead so that they could rejoice, I’m sure.

Nevertheless, I was a half hour late to class. Thankfully, my professors did not hold it against me, because my work has been strong all semester (biggest yawn ever, right?) We got an A on the project. Got the grades on Friday. I’ am done. Time to unwind, celebrate, spend time with people who accused you of being antisocial all semester and experience some new things during what should be a great summer.

It has not begun in prime fashion.

I have a lot of free time on my hands for the next three weeks. I relish this. It is needed. I have not had any break of more than four days from business/work and school since the day I walked off the stage with my second Masters (and immediately left White Plains to head back to Jersey, because we had Game 7 Rangers Playoff Hockey that night). I am mentally shot. I am incorrigible. I am insufferable to be around (excluding a couple of people whose presence delights me). I need a break.

This trip did nothing to assuage those matters. In fact, it exacerbated things further. But again, I am back home, whole, healthy, alive and intact, so I shan’t complain.

Much.

I get a call from the local edition that I always use down at the National Harbor. They are good to me. They let me hand-pick my cars every time. They know I love a car with an elite sound system (as factories go). They send for cars at other locations so that I can have whatever I want. I’ve rented some damn good cars since I moved here. Those guys at the Hertz at the Waterfront National Harbor are top notch. I always leave them great reviews, and even after this debacle, I still will.

However.

They sent me on a wild goose hunt that left me holding the proverbial bag, looking like a fool, and starting out two hours behind my prescribed schedule right off the bat. I had reserved a car last Sunday, five full days in advance of the rental. I knew that with a holiday approaching and it being a weekend, it was best to get into the rental pipeline sooner rather than risk not having any available options later in the week. Usually, what this does is ensure that you will at least have a car within the class that you have chosen. Never has it been an issue.

Until this trip.

I normally rent Full-Size and SUVs. They had nothing but compact cars when I was set to arrive. How could this be, you said? One manager says that the inventory does not reflect what the computers say. Another manager acts as if he is a Russian dictator attempting to talk to Donald Trump without a translator. Another looks at me as if I have five heads. I was told by my guys that I could just go to another location and check to see if they had a full-size. Logically, despite a holiday, I figured Reagan Airport would be good for this. They actually did, but the counter lady was intent on trying to make an example out of me in order to get back at my local guys because “they’re not supposed to be sending customers from there to the airport, we operate under different rules”, a-ged Betty Rubble (yes, she looked like Betty Rubble would in the year 2017, sassy, jet Black hair and all) says. More on her later.

Whatever.

More to the point, I was just doing what I was told. In retrospect, I could have gone where I eventually ended up (in Alexandria, down off Van Dorn) and saved myself a ton of aggravation.

It takes about 30 minutes to get from the Harbor to Reagan. Traffic wasn’t bad. I get there, swap out of the car and head inside. I got attitude from the Hertz attendant outside, for something more innocuous than a butterfly landing on your windowsill. That should have been a harbinger of things to come for me. I think I kind of knew it and was in cognitive dissonance mode.

I got inside and Betty Rubble’s going on and on about policies and what not. Mind you, I am a Gold Club customer. You are supposed to (figuratively) kiss my ass to make sure I am content, not KICK IT. So I’m getting the third degree, when she’s really upset with my local guys for sending me there. She claims they have no cars, but several people walked right up, looking like a vegetarian at Sunday dinner in a Puerto Rican household able to rent cars ostensibly without reservations. This was after my 15 minutes of going back and forth with Betty. This made me furious. Just pouring more propane onto the fire that burned. Then the manager comes out looking like he just finished teaching an African-American History course at Howard and spews all this P&P garbage like I don’t know this stuff inside and out — and had already exhibited such to him. I just wanted to know what my recourse was. I am running late. By this time, I had been at Reagan for an hour. I had planned to be on the road shortly after 11 am. It was now 12:45. He comes back twice saying he was searching for the very car that I had brought in to exchange. How do you “lose” a car in your own lot? It took him another 20 minutes to do this. I was about to reach Colin Ferguson (not that one, but the one Long Islanders have come to despise). He comes back finally to tell me that the car was “cleaned and gas full” — as if the needle moved by driving 17 miles from the Harbor, or that I would be driving it beyond returning it to another location).

Again. Whatever. What are we going to do about this screw job on you guys’ part, is the question?

So I called my guys at the local edition and, again, being helpful as always (and really what they should have done from the start, but they are allowed this mulligan), they got me what I needed from Alexandria. Now all I needed to do was drive down from Arlington — but on the Potomac side, at the airport, which meant local traffic — to downtown Alexandria.

More harbingers.

There was some sort of cop convention in the area this weekend. Because naturally. A cavalcade of cops on motorcyles in uniform come buzzing down Jeff Davis. A good 75 of them. Not exaggerating or guesstimating. Sat through two lights.

Strike one.

I get on 395 to head down, and this Asian girl is driving alone, laughing hysterically. At what, I have no idea. But in typical Virginia Maniac fashion, she’s swinging around the on ramp to merge onto highway traffic. Her head never once moved to look to see if the lane was clear. She just began veering. I could feel she was about to do this. Anyone who has ever driven in Northern Queens back in New York knows what I mean. That is as far as I will go with this description. But I reacted accordingly and avoided what would have surely been a 4-5 car pileup. A car crash in back to back days in which I had no fault in either. Thankfully, that did not occur. That’s another reason I am not complaining much, just detailing how ridiculous everything was. Murphy’s Law, erstwhile of this near-incident.

I get to the local edition in Alexandria. Smooth sailing. In and out of there in three minutes. The way it normally is. I go onto the road at 1:30 PM. A fire of a thousand beasts was about to be unleashed and thankfully I didn’t have to deal with anyone but a barista at Starbuck’s down near Richmond and my cousin who does my hair, who I didn’t get to for SEVEN HOURS after hitting the highway (normal time travel from the same points is right at three hours, for comparison).  This is all I saw for about 100 miles (and four and a half hours):

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As soon as 395 merged into 95, the entire interstate ground to a complete standstill. Including the ripoff express lanes in the middle. Those express lanes are junk. All they do is dump off the people who speed through there at a junction that causes traffic to back up for everyone else at one junction (one of the reasons why Fredericksburg is [usually] the line of demarcation for the uber-ridiculous “Virginia Traffic.”)

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Not today, though.

Everyone got it. Northbound was bad, as is to be expected. Southbound express was bad, partially because there was a wreck involving some lunatic doing 90+ in driving rains and rear-ended someone. The other reason? Cops were out there nabbing people every 2-3 miles. They made a killing. I am of full certitude. So between the pulls and the dump offs at awful locations onto the main interstate, this is partly what led to nonstop backups from Franconia (Exit 170 or so) and Exit 67. That’s just-outside-DC THROUGH Richmond, for those who don’t know the exits in this region. This Waze snapshot can kind of give you an idea:

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Not even my music had a calming effect. I was antsy, aggravated, agitated, angry and really feeling like I would snap if someone had even bumped my car. I can never understand why traffic backs up in areas where there aren’t wrecks. Then you see what people do on the road and you at least see why it happens, even if you don’t understand the mentality behind it. I lost count, but I saw about 15+ wrecks, several different trucks stalling in the middle of the interstate, several tow trucks, several EMS and fire trucks, and of course the obligatory worst-place-possible construction zone. I saw a woman “driving” with her knees doing 80+ in the rain with both hands on her cell phone and looking down.

I hate everyone who uses their cell phones and can’t maintain lane integrity or awareness of all four quadrants and blind spots. I can use my phone while driving. I drive with paranoia. I am checking my perimeters at all times. It is why I have avoided so many sure-fire wrecks. I can anticipate them. Some people can’t get in the car and do anything other than drive without causing an incident on the road. Whether it is an inability to talk and drive with good sense at the same time, or use their phone for whatever reason and stay in their lane. At least three of the crashes I saw (I don’t call them “accidents” since they are 100% avoidable with people on their phones) were due to people doing the most ridiculous things possible with their phones while traveling high rates of speed in the rain (!!!)

Nevertheless, once I got to Petersburg and later, the notorious Dinwiddie County, it cleared out for all of about 8 miles or so. Petersburg was a parking lot due to a wreck. As Murphy’s Law would have it, it was merely three miles before the I-85 junction; meaning if I had been ahead of the wreck, I would have passed this without having to slow down, as I use 85 South from there. But, you know, everything that happened before that point ensured that I would be behind it all.

Another 30 minutes of bumper to bumper.

Strike two.

Dinwiddie was rather quiet. It had stopped raining in that area, also. I was busting it (not saying what I was doing, but it was “healthy”, albeit not “Two Wheels Joe Cascino” though). Naturally, this is where they have a one-lane thing going, and yet another wreck. Not quite as long, but this is a 70 MPH speed zone and usually where I get my second wind and make some time. Fail.

Strike three, and I am out of Virginia not long after clearing that congestion.

One lane the whole way on 85 until I get to my cousin’s exit. Northern North Carolina has become a PCZ like many areas throughout New York City when it comes to Interstate 85. It feels like they have had one of the lanes blocked in both northbound and southbound directions for years. It has probably been two or three, but they have barely done any work. Must be the same no-show union work. Knowing that state, it would not come as a shock. Some assbackwardness of unparalleled zeniths in many regards in North Carolina. We shall not go there.

As previously stated, it took me about 7 hours from Point A to Point B when it has taken as few as 2 1/2 hours and usually between 3 and 3 1/2 TOPS in every trip I have made from here to there since moving here. And that’s been about 9 or 10 now. So if I appeared to be angry on my social channels, just know that I couldn’t type every expletive that actually came to mind and out of my mouth. I need to stop traveling alone. I need companionship to calm me down and engage me in something productive that takes my mind off figuring out why people drive 15 miles per hour below the speed limit in the left lane or rear end people who they are staring at for hundreds of feet at a time ahead of them.  Without moving. I am going to snap on an unwitting traveler if this does not change.

Rhoda gave me the Mickey Mouse ears hairstyle. I like it. I like getting weird looks from people. I couldn’t give any less of a fraction of a fuck. I have self-actualized. I do what I want to do, when I want to do it. It is a great place to be in life. But more to the point, that style requires no maintenance, isn’t a distraction, and can stay in place for a while. I’ve got some good things on the horizon and it was definitely time to tame the wild mop that I had developed over the two months since I had last gotten it done.

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The trip back was easy. Of course it was. I dropped off Rhoda for her weekend and hit the road. It was virtually midnight. I had not eaten all day. In fact, the only thing I ingested all day was my daily water in the morning and the cup of coffee in Richmond. I had been running nonstop since 7 am (off a couple of hours of sleep), had a headache and, as a result of the obvious delirium, ATE AT MCDONALD’S. 

It wasn’t raining for most of the way back, it began to pick up a bit when I got closer to home, but who cares? It was 3 am. There was hardly a soul on the roads.

Except on 210. There’s always someone out there. Somehow.

Side Note: Don’t ever let me hear any of you who get stuck in 15 minutes of traffic complaining about sitting in traffic again. 

I have sat in traffic in New York (obviously) and New Jersey, Boston, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, throughout the mid-Atlantic and DC area, Virginia (all my life), North Carolina (virtually same), even Atlanta and Miami traffic.

Nothing is worse than literally riding bumper to bumper for 120 of a possible 180 miles and doing so for nearly five hours. Not even Los Angeles traffic can top that.

Alas, I made it home safely.  And I’m still gonna have my crab legs. Not all is bad.

 

2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs: Eastern Conference Finals Prospectus: Ottawa Senators vs. Pittsburgh Penguins


2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs: Eastern Conference Finals Prospectus: Ottawa Senators vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
M.D. Wright
5.11.2017

Honestly, who cares about this series outside of the respective fanbases? The Senators are not fun to watch, and the Penguins, with a mediocre goalie and a defence that bled shots throughout both of their series to this point, has still managed to win eight games while losing four.

First goal of the game will be critical in every game in this series. If the Penguins get it, the Sens will be hard-pressed attempting to chase the game with their lackluster offence, which is predicated on strong puck movement, traffic in front and cleaning up rebounds. Much of what the Sens generate comes from the ubiquitous, but hobbled Erik Karlsson, who is obviously taking shots to numb the pain in his busted foot. Shots that appear to wear off after two periods every game. It hasn’t mattered that much to this point, as the Sens beat up on an AHL-laden Boston Bruins team, and a choke artist Rangers club that was clearly superior and should have swept Ottawa, but failed to do the little things to close out games or the series itself.

Craig Anderson was more lucky than good against New York. He’ll need to be both against Pittsburgh; particularly with the Sens’ propensity for taking penalties. The Pens’ power play can be lethal most of the time. The Sens cannot chase the game. They must keep the goal scoring totals under 5 every game or they will lose. It is that simple.

Can they achieve this? Sure. Will they? Again, if they get the first goal and can then effectively deploy their archaic 1-3-1 trap (which will not slow the Pens’ transition game all that much). Anderson will have to stand on his head for most of this series and steal at least a game, if not two for the Sens to have a chance. Marc-Andre Fleury has been equally lucky more than good, but he has better forwards in front of him.

We’ll give the Sens two games, but it is difficult to justify picking them to push this to seven games; much less winning the series, although stranger things have happened. These are not your uncle’s Sens, who boasted 50-goal scorer Dany Heatley, a young Jason Spezza, who was electric and old man Daniel Alfredsson, the last time the Sens made it this far in 2007. The lone holdover from that team is Chris Neil, who was used as bait for Alain Vigneault to make his millionth personnel gaffe by playing Tanner Glass in a must-win game solely because Neil was active in Game 6 vs. the Rangers. Neil likely will not play against a Pens team that focuses more on scoring than the garbage after the whistles. The final connection to the 2007 Sens goes by the wayside, as Neil is likely playing in his final playoffs this year.

Good riddance.

Call: PITTSBURGH IN 6.

2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Western Finals Prospectus: Nashville Predators vs. Anaheim Ducks


2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Western Finals Prospectus: Nashville Predators vs. Anaheim Ducks
M.D. Wright
5.11.2017

The NHL playoffs are a tricky game. The better team does not always win; as we have seen in successive nights this week alone. Nashville has been the “underdog” in both their series to this point, and have not possessed home ice advantage entering either series.

And they won’t in this one, either.

It hasn’t mattered.

Nashville has the best defence in the NHL. It is arguably not close. Their top 4 all contribute heavily to the score sheet, and they defend. A novel concept for some teams, but not to a hard-edged and master tactician like Peter Laviolette. The trade of Shea Weber (who, make no mistake about it, is in physical decline; albeit gradual) for P.K. Subban was another stroke of genius by the NHL’s best general manager, David Poile. Subban and Roman Josi are two of the absolute best two-way defencemen in the league. They dictate terms. It takes pressure off the Preds’ forwards who sometimes — okay often, in Filip Forsberg’s case — disappear when the playoffs ramp up. It is part of the reason the Preds are only now making their first Conference Finals in franchise history.

As it is, the team has received contributions from up and down the lineup. Noticeably absent from those tallies is winger Viktor Arvidsson, the mercurial bundle of energy who helped pace the Preds in goal scoring before Forsberg had his typically monstrous second-half of the regular season. Ryan Johansen has been steady, if not unspectacular. However, he is efficient. And he wins important draws. That last point extends to Mike Fisher and even Colton Sissons. The Preds have the makeup to pound away with the Ducks, who love to play a heavy game and execute a two-forward forecheck for long periods, if coach Randy Carlyle sees fit. The Edmonton Oilers found out about that in the series-clinching Game 7 Anaheim win on Wednesday.

James Neal, Colin Wilson and Austin Watson will have roles in this regard.

Can Pekka Rinne continue his torrid pace? The Ducks won’t give him many shifts off. The Preds again have the best defence in the league, so they don’t ever really bleed shots. Rinne’s job has been much less stressful this year than in playoffs past, where he was constantly under siege (particularly last year) and eventually spit the bit. Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm have been every bit as important as Josi and Subban. They will need to continue to be.

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Can the Ducks score enough? Despite a nonstop and relentless forecheck of nearly 40 straight game minutes against Edmonton in Game 7, the Ducks still only scored two goals. Both dirty. That won’t get it done consistently against the Preds, who have great puck movers and puck rushers. John Gibson will have to steal a game or two in this series if the Ducks are to win. He is surely capable. But he is also capable of having a stinker at the worst juncture. Edmonton does not have the depth that the Preds possess. Gibson can become a legend if he can help the Ducks reach the Stanley Cup Finals and even win the Cup. It won’t be easy.

Ryan Getzlaf has been utterly dominant all playoffs, as was an easy call for many of us heading into the playoffs; coming off a torrid above-a-point-per-game pace after the All-Star Break. Jakob Silfverberg has been superb, as well. Ryan Kesler’s tactics against Connor McDavid were mildly successful, but won’t work with the grizzled Fisher. Rickard Rakell will have more of a chance to get loose against less defensive minded wingers like Forsberg and Arvidsson. He could have a breakout series. He was on the verge as the Edmonton series wore on. Nick Ritchie had an impact in all three zones.

Corey Perry must find the touch in tight, ultimately, for the Ducks to advance. He did not in the 2016 playoffs in which the Ducks were dispatched by the Preds.

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We just don’t think the Ducks can score consistently enough to win four games here. All partiality aside, as a part-time Ducks supporter, objectivity is the name of the game here. Won’t be surprised or upset if the Ducks win, but we don’t think they will. We’d pick Nashville with a bit more conviction if not for the season-ending injury suffered by Preds’ winger, Kevin Fiala, who affected things in the offensive zone. He was without cover against Chicago.

Call: NASHVILLE IN 7.

The Characterization of NHL Fans: Revisited for 2017


The Characterization of NHL Fans: Revisited for 2017
M.D. Wright
5.2.2017

Hockey fans are a unique (if not clinically insane) bunch. They are quirkier than fans of other sports. Only soccer/association football hooligans are more rabid and delusional. And that’s arguable. Every hockey fan/fanbase has a modicum of delusion. It’s part of the game. For all the skill and structure that exists at the highest levels of hockey, there is a component of randomness to the game which lends itself to not only delusion, but bipolar tendencies from individual and collective fanbases.

Don’t believe me? Watch the next NHL Stanley Cup Playoff game on Tuesday, then pick about 8-10 people on Twitter and watch their tweets during the game. One minute you’d think they’re pushing for a player/coach or their team to be anointed for sainthood. Within 10 minutes, that same fan could be cursing the same player, coach or team to eternal damnation. This is not an exaggeration. Mark my words, someone on Twitter will do this on Tuesday, May 2, 2017.

That said, each fanbase among the 30 existing (Las Vegas doesn’t have a fanbase or a characterization yet obviously; but with some of the players who will comprise the team — which includes players, in some instances, that some fans wanted gone for ages, and get the benefit of the expansion draft to finally make it happen) has certain traits that are noticeable to the fans within that same fanbase, as well as a certain perception from fans of other teams. This is not a foolproof test, but absolutely true for a good number of fans within each fanbase. Try it out. Use Twitter. Use Instagram. Use Facebook (and dodge the PC police, unless you are a snitch for them) if you must.

I’m gonna break down NHL fandom them this way:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Montreal Canadiens.

They love to think they own hockey. They think the game revolves around the Habs and the fanbase, by extension. They hate the word “expansion”, as each of the last three waves of expansion has put them farther and farther from winning another Stanley Cup Championship. Stanley Cups? Oh they have 24 of those. Most Habs fans nowadays have seen exactly none of them with their own live eyes. The Habs fans who you see on social media have seen one, and at MOST two (1993, and 1986, before that) of those 24. Yet they brag about their team as if they watched all 24. For all we know, the first few of those Cups were split-squad games LMAO. Every time the league expands, the Habs get further and further away from winning another. And their fans know it, because it comes out in how they comport themselves with fans of other teams. They hate Toronto Maple Leafs fans (who are even worse when it comes to Cups). They hate Ottawa Senators fans. They hate Boston Bruins fans. They hate Chris Kreider when they should hate one of their own players for doing what caused them to hate Chris Kreider. They love to tell you how much greater Carey Price is than any other goalie, when nothing Price has done suggests that he’s even better than any more than two-thirds of the goalies in the NHL; never mind the KHL and other leagues.

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You get the drift.

Delusional and borderline  reprobate.

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Boston Bruins.

“B’s” fans aren’t quite as bad as Montreal fans, but they’re not far behind. They’re more animalistic. Where Habs fans are passive-aggressive with their antics, B’s fans are rabid animals. Whether it is throwing beverages and God knows what else onto the ice when things don’t go Boston’s way, or hurling racial slurs at a Black player who is kicking their team’s ass (see: Pernell Karl Subban, Joel Ward, etc.) while throwing banana peels at the former, to chanting “bullshit… refs you suck!” when replays confirm good calls are made that they agree with, they are like howling monkeys. They overrate most of their players, and trash those who actually turn out to be good elsewhere (and former GM Peter Chiarelli did a great job of making that happen with Tyler Seguin, Blake Wheeler, etc.) They hate everyone and think Henrik Lundqvist is a massive whiner, even though their goalie is universally known to be the whiniest goalie in the NHL today.

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Ottawa Senators.
This fanbase has a massive inferiority complex. It is understood. They are basically a reincarnation of the old Senators from 100 years ago. This incarnation of the team is currently celebrating 25 years of existence. That lags behind Montreal, Toronto, Boston and other teams by a century in that department. They love their team, no doubt — although you wouldn’t know it with all the empty seats in the stands when they make their twice-every-eight-years playoff appearances. You’d think they’d sell out and actually have butts in the seats every home playoff game.

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They think Erik Karlsson is the greatest thing since sliced bread. They’re not far off, but if he were an average player, they’d think the same.

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Toronto Maple Leafs.

The way many Leafs fans talk on social media, you’d think their team had won something in the past, I dunno, three generations. The fact is, they haven’t won anything since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F, Kennedy were still alive and giving inspiring speeches across the country.

You can imagine for yourself how interactions with that fanbase go, even if you are not a hockey fan. If you are an NFL fan, just think about Philadelphia Eagles fans.

You get the gist.

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This guy has zero intention of every marrying her. At least in this lifetime.

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New York Islanders.
Despite winning four Stanley Cups in a row from 1980-1983, including beating the seemingly unbeatable Edmonton Oilers of Wayne Gretzky, Grant Fuhr, Jarri Kurri and Mark Messier, the Isles haven’t come close to winning anything ever since. It has developed within them a serious complex, especially when it comes to the fact that they are a “B” team in the region (i.e. Islanders, Nets, Mets, Jets; the teams that came into existence after the original area teams were founded.

Side Note: If you did not watch championships won with your own live eyes, you do not get to use title talk as a trump card in sports discussions. This goes not just for hockey, but for all sports.

A team without a home. No one wants them. People who live on Long Island want them back at the old Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, but won’t pony up the tax dollars to potentially make it happen. Having lived in Nassau County and knowing that the tax rates are 4th highest of any county in the entire nation, I cannot blame them. But that’s beside the point. That barn is obsolete and ugly, but it is Isles fans’ ugly and obsolete barn.

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Brooklyn has effectively given them a tenant’s eviction notice, and the Isles will have to find another home soon, because Barclay’s Center has had enough. Truth be told, no one likes hockey there, because in typical Isles fashion (mirroring their fans) they chose to move into an arena with poor sight lines for hockey, and ice so choppy that the shaved ice man on 5th Avenue on a summer day is jealous. So many injuries because of the bad ice conditions.

Are they going to Hartford when they move out of Brooklyn? Back to Uniondale? Kansas City? Into orbit? No one cares, really. Seemingly not even Isles fans. John Tavares is better than Sidney Crosby, some will tell you, though.

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New York Rangers.
Rangers fans, as fans of an “Original Six” team, are some of the longest-tenured and most knowledgeable fans. This works two ways, though. The older sect knows the game inside and out and exhibits it when discussing games. But with that knowledge comes arrogance, bipolar tendencies, and a paranoia that the league is out to get their team. Some of it may have legs, while some of it is Chuck McGill (“Better Call Saul”) level shit.

Rangers fans tend to be fatalistic more often than other fans. In the lives of most Rangers fans, everything that could go wrong at the worst time has gone wrong. That would explain, for some, why the team went 54 years between Stanley Cup wins, and are 23 years (about to cement that in about a week) and counting between the last one in 1994. This leads to extremely warped criticism of players, coaches, general managers, training staff, beat writers, anyone they can blame, really.

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Every loss must have a goat. Sometimes that goat is floating. Sometimes it is the same player. It has been that way with this fanbase for many years, not just with the advent of social media. Not so bad. The issue is this is where the bipolar-ness kicks in. One minute the “goat” gets lambasted to Kingdom Come, the next, he is lauded as the savior of the team by the same exact fans. And, of course, with social media, God forbid any of the players have social media accounts, they are bound to have run-ins with these same fans.

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It’s no wonder the team plays schizophrenic hockey at home, while better on the road.

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New Jersey Devils.
Much like the Isles, they had a nice run of success in the 1990s and early 2000s. They won three Stanley Cup titles. Much like the Isles, they don’t sell out unless the Rangers or another rival team is in town. Much like the Isles, they are developing a long run of futility (save for the 2012 Cup Finals loss). If you read some of their fans’ social media posts, they’ve already given up on NEXT SEASON before it even begins. That’s how much of a dearth of talent the team possesses.

Don’t mention to them Henrik Lundqvist’s record against the Devils or utter the phrase “Uncle Daddy” around them. You could begin a riot.

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Pittsburgh Penguins.
Depending on who you ask, you either believe the Pens experienced serendipity by landing much-coveted centre Sidney Crosby ahead of the 2005-2006 NHL season in the special draft, or that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman surreptitiously steered Crosby to Pittsburgh to save a team that was hemorrhaging losses and was on the verge of needing to leave the city altogether. You’ll never be able to prove the latter, and even the former will always draw derisive comments such as “there were three other teams who could have won that draft, it’s not like he (commissioner) wouldn’t want a superstar in his league’s biggest market, so why would he rig it?” and what not.

I am not here to speak about conspiracy theories, but the point is that Pens fans are two separate entities: there exists a massive bandwagon who cannot name anyone on the team other than Crosby (and maybe Evgeni Malkin and Kris(topher) Letang) and only ever talk about the Pens when the playoffs arrive, and then you have the sect of true Pens fans who are as defensive about anything related to their team as Floyd Mayweather was in the boxing ring.

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If a player on their team commits a dirty play on the ice, they tell everyone else (literally fans of all the other 29 teams in the league at times) to “suck it up, get over it.” But let the exact same play happen to a player on their team and they want Salem Witch Trials and congressional hearings in tandem with lifetime bans of the offending player. To go further, four of their former players (who shall remain nameless in this article — diehard hockey fans know all four, and if you don’t, ask off the record) who each possessed well-earned reputations as dirty players have all injured players on the Penguins when they played on other teams, before or after playing with Pittsburgh. Those same fans who looked the other way when those players earned their reputations in Pittsburgh now verbally assail those same players when they continue to cement their reputations elsewhere.

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We all know people like this in every area of life; not just with hockey. Arguably the worst fans in the league.

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Philadelphia Flyers.
Philadelphia is generally a sports town bereft of winning anything of consequence in most of our lives. Championship droughts can breed hostility. Just as you see with Eagles, and to a lesser extent, Phillies and Sixers fans, Flyers fans are no different. They cheer when opposing players get noticeably injured. They applaud the player on their team who maimed the injured player. Not all fans, of course. We should be learn-ed enough to know that generalizations do not apply to the whole, but this is a rampant occurrence when dealing with this fanbase.

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When you don’t win a title since eight-tracks were the chief method of listening to music, that type of thing tends to occur. They’re only really that bad when the team is good. And that has been rare in recent years.

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Buffalo Sabres.
Like other Buffalo-area teams, Sabres fans are sensible and pretty easy to get along with. They’ve never won anything, so the feeling of going years without a Cup doesn’t rile them up the same way as fans of teams that have won Cups, but haven’t come close in many years (see: Flyers, Maple Leafs, Islanders). They’re more concerned about why, no matter who owns the team, the franchise always appears to be in total disarray and lacking direction, despite oftentimes having large amounts of talent.

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Washington Capitals.
The Caps have had some all-world players in their 43-year history: Peter Bondra, Dale Hunter, Dino Ciccarelli, Mike Gartner, Sergei Gonchar, Kevin Hatcher, Olie “The Goalie” Kolzig, Adam Oates, and on down to Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Ovechkin today. They’ve never won a Stanley Cup. The closest they’ve come to winning one was in 1998 when they were swept in four games in the Cup Finals by the Detroit Red Wings. They’ve developed a “playoff choker” label not only by outside fans, but fans within the team’s fanbase. That is a damning fate. They hope for the best and expect the worst. They’ve been let down year after year, especially of late; despite having the best record on multiple occasions, and, for all intents and purposes, the best team in the league.

Once the playoffs arrive, something weird always seems to happen to the team, regardless of the personnel or the man behind the bench. Consistent choking breeds cynicism. Cynicism breeds paranoia. That paranoia somehow makes it over to the players, who grip their sticks tighter in playoff games and series that most think they should win with relative ease (relative to what little “ease” there exists in winning an NHL playoff series, which is very little most of the time). It’s like watching someone spiral out of control due to drug use, and that person knows that it’s going to eventually kill them, but they do it anyway.

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Carolina Hurricanes.
The former Hartford Whalers, the team relocated from Connecticut to Greensboro, North Carolina 20 years ago. Ever since, there has been a steady stream of losing. Oh, they’ve had a couple of peaks on the radar in that time, including a 2006 Stanley Cup championship, but ever since that time, they’ve been on the downswing. They haven’t made the playoffs this decade. They’re getting close again, as the team has been remade, but the consistent thing with this fanbase is that it generally doesn’t exist. That tends to happen with relocating teams, versus an expansion franchise which engenders a fanbase from scratch. If you don’t win, people do not show up. Even when you show that you are improving, they don’t show up.

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Carolina has lagged behind the league in attendance for years now, constantly last or second to last. North Carolina is a basketball-first state, and football second. Hockey only matters when people are bored and the Canes are good.

If this new core of players turns out to perform well, watch how many people will come out of the woodworks with a refrain similar to a number of Chicago Blackhawks “fans” in recent years: “I’ve always been a Canes fan, just couldn’t make it to games.”

Sure, pal. Chicago bandwagoners can make that excuse. It is Chicago. The Canes play on the ass end of the Raleigh city limits in an arena that practically has to beg people to attend games. Big difference.

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Columbus Blue Jackets.
What is there to say about this team? They don’t have much of a persona. Oh, they hate Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins, but everyone does. So what else is there? The attention turns to the team whenever the Ohio State football season ends, for one. If the team is good, they are as loud and as loyal as anyone. But they have not managed much playoff success: only three playoff game won in their somewhat brief history (17 years).

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They don’t even hate Rick Nash for pushing for a trade to what became the New York Rangers (allegedly, albeit dubious, given the GM was quick to volunteer the infomation that Nash “privately” asked for a trade). Some fanbases would never forgive such a thing, regardless of whose idea it was to trade the team’s best player in the midst of a contract.

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Florida Panthers.
They worry more about their team leaving town than anything else.

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There’s not much else to be said. After the complete (negative) 180 the team did from 2015-2016 to 2016-2017, can you blame them?

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Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Bolts have exciting players and have cultivated a boisterous and increasingly-knowledgeable fanbase. Oh, we know about their shameful (but within their rights) ticket operations for playoff games, (which they have since claimed to discontinue) but that’s kind of how you have to operate in a smaller market. They rankled two Original Six fanbases in 2015 (Montreal, New York Rangers) on their way to the Stanley Cup Finals and have developed an intense rivalry with division foe Detroit Red Wings, but outside of that, you cannot be upset if you love the game of hockey and wish to see it spread to areas below the 38th parallel. For southern teams to have growing fanbases is good for the league, regardless of whether you feel like your team’s Cup Finals hopes were dashed because Tampa’s team “got in the way” LOL.

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Detroit Red Wings.
Their fans used to be far more obnoxious when they were a running All-Star team top to bottom. Even though their 25-year playoff appearances streak was ended in 2017, they had been sliding for years prior. Winning breeds a sometimes overconfidence and arrogant fanbase. In one of the biggest oddities out there, most die hard Red Wings fans do not even live in Detroit. You cannot say that about the other Original Six teams’ fanbases (Chicago, Montreal, Toronto, Boston, New York Rangers).

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WESTERN CONFERENCE.

Nashville Predators.

Another expansion team from 1998, the Predators are a younger fanbase. Despite no conference finals appearances (which may change this year); much less a Stanley Cup Finals visit, they have a rabid fanbase. Bridgestone Arena is consistently sold out and loud. David Poile, the team’s general manager may be the best in all of sports. Including Theo Epstein, who can splurge, whereas Poile has to work within both a small, hard cap (pause), and a small market. There isn’t much negative you can say about the Preds’ fanbase.

Nothing that a long playoff series can’t change, but these younger teams tend to just be full of fans who have come to embrace the game, which is obviously good for the growth of the sport.

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Chicago Blackhawks.
We’re not going to use this space to bash bandwagon fans (and they, along with Pittsburgh, have the two biggest bandwagons out there; infiltrating the real fans). We will give them this: their diehard fans were there when the team was being mismanaged into the ground. That mismanagement put them into position to draft Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and others 10 years ago. Those two were part of the spearheading of the team’s run of three championships in six years — something the bandwagon fans are quick to use as a trump card, regardless of the discussion; thereby easily delineating themselves apart from the real, longtime fans who know better. It is like Yankee Fans Lite.

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As a major city, the arena is always packed, and loud. They feel as though they are right on top of the visiting team — albeit not as much as the old Chicago Stadium — and they know their hockey. Once you learn how to separate the real fans from the bandwagoners, you know who to talk hockey with and who to leave to their practice of living vicariously through the successes of the team to distract from the fact that they are losers and erstwhile miserable people in life.

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Winnipeg Jets.
Evander Kane claimed the fans were racist, but Dustin Byfuglien — to my knowledge — has never done so. Evander Kane has been a knucklehead his entire career, eventually leading to his jettisoning out of town a couple of years ago. Say what you want, but when you are the only game in town, fans will be rabid. That has its good and bad traits. We know the Jets have never been extremely successful in the NHL, despite boasting some great players (Teemu Selanne and others atop the list, along with one in the making, Patrik Laine). But these people know their hockey and love their Jets. You don’t see them squabbling too often on social media. One must wonder how they will handle it if the Jets ever win a Stanley Cup. They haven’t come close.

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Minnesota Wild.
The State of Hockey. No question.

The State of Minnesota Wild Hockey? Another story.

They’ve had good teams, and the fans love them dearly. But like their predecessors, the North Stars, who moved to Dallas and became the Stars, they still never won a Cup. It’s somewhat startling, both because Minnesota really is the state of hockey in the United States, and the great players they’ve had over their history. Maybe it happens soon. A state where the fans deserve a title. There are no bandwagons here.

But after yet another disappointing playoff exit, they’re like this nowadays:

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St. Louis Blues.
Another team with no titles, but you wouldn’t know it with their fanbase. And it is still growing, that fanbase. Who can forget this guy from 2016? (although I personally believed he was bullshitting and it was all a staged act).

Sandwiched midway between the former and current incarnations of the Minnesota hockey teams, they have cultivated a heartland fanbase separate (and I do mean separate) from that of Chicago, their biggest rivals.

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When the team scores goals, the fans join in with a chant while the organ plays the team’s fight song and celebrates the goal count with bells (one per each goal; i.e. if the team scores 5 goals, there are five bells following the fight song). It can be annoying and grating on the nerves, but it is a signature piece of pride for Blues fans. If you aren’t a fan of a Western Conference team, this generally does not bother you. But Blackhawks and Blues fans do not get along.

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Dallas Stars.
Another newer fanbase, they became the Stars in 1993, after the Minnesota North Stars unceremoniously left their previous home in Bloomington, Minnesota. Dallas experience success in relative short order. They won the Stanley Cup in 1999, which may feel like eons ago to Stars fans today. In hopes of recapturing that magic, they have re-hired then-head coach Ken Hitchcock in advance of the 2017-2018 season.

As for the fans, they are difficult to gauge. The natives are often Dallas Cowboys fans, and gravitated to the NBA’s Mavericks as they had two NBA Finals appearances (winning one). The Stars are not even tertiary in the region (Rangers), and it sometimes shows with attendance and local TV ratings. They have exciting players and the hardcore fans that they do possess have shown that they know hockey in a state that is about as antithetical to hockey as seeing a used car salesman at a Catholic confessional booth. You don’t really have beefs with Stars fans unless you’re a fan of a rival, and even now, the closest thing to a rivalry (relative to some of the east coast rivalries) is with the Blues.

Big deal.

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Colorado Avalanche.
Denver is a good sports town, and the Avs have had support, since they immediately won multiple Stanley Cups upon their arrival from Quebec City (former Nordiques). The team hasn’t been  good in a while, but the fans are okay. They’re kind of like New York Rangers West, in that they are almost too critical of players, coaches and front office members to the point of being fatalistic about the team’s fortunes. You hope Joe Sakic can turn around that team before they begin to lose the fans they’ve spent 20 years engaging since leaving Quebec.

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Calgary Flames.
The former Atlanta franchise (notice how teams rarely live long in Atlanta? Two different hockey teams have left there — the Flames and the Thrashers-turned-reincarnated-Jets), the Flames are a niche fanbase. They compete in the Battle of Alberta, the Canadian province where the former and maybe now-again powerhouse Edmonton Oilers also reside.

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Calgary is five times larger than Edmonton, however. Calgary is more of a cosmopolitan town, but the Flames are still the only game in town. When you have these only game in town situations, the fans tend to be very knowledgeable, vociferous and overall intense. The Flames are no different. They haven’t won anything since the week before the Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989, but their fans have been there since day one upon arrival from Atlanta in 1980.

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Edmonton Oilers.
The Oilers were almost unfairly dominant for most of the 1980s. They boasted three of the greatest players of all time (Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri) along with a hall of fame goalie (Grant Fuhr). Another “only game in town” market, Edmonton boasts a city-wide fanbase that really gets loud in support of their team. Oh, they go at it with Flames and Vancouver Canucks fans, along with others, as to be expected. But you kind of have to admire fans who only have one major professional sports franchise in town. It is starkly different from how fans in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto, and Montreal — all of whom certainly support their teams with great fervor, despite numerous entertainment outlets — in that they seem to be LOUDER in these arenas.

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Don’t believe me? Ask fans who have attended games in the new Rogers Place. They can’t even hear themselves think. It’s a different type of loud than places like Madison Square Garden (before the real fans were priced out in favor of empty, soulless Wall Street suits). Don’t underestimate the effect this has had on the current incarnation of the Oilers, as they push to return to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 11 years, and win for the first time in 27.

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Vancouver Canucks.
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Arizona Coyotes.
The Coyotes were the former first incarnation of the Winnipeg Jets. After 20 years in the desert, they probably wish they had stayed in Manitoba the first time, even though we know the Canadian Dollar versus the United States dollar was the reason for the fold.

As it is, down in Arizona, hockey has little chance to thrive in this state, despite the NHL insisting on forcing it to work. Surefire 2017 Calder Trophy winner Auston Matthews is from Arizona, but he is going to be forever synonymous with Toronto (if he plays out his career there) before long, not Arizona. His origin may inspire more kids form the state to pick up hockey, but it hasn’t made a difference where it matters for the Coyotes: at the gate.

New GM John Chayka has an unorthodox approach to the development of a team and is in the midst of completely remaking the team in his analytical image. He has gathered a plethora of draft picks and has used a good number on them on players who he believes will contribute to the future of the team. For all parties involved, let’s hope the plan comes to fruition as conceived. For if the current regime’s plan doesn’t work out, the franchise may not survive any more sustained periods of lack of success. They have been plagued by bankruptcy to the point where the NHL was paying the team’s bills. This is a direct reflection of a lack of fan engagement to the point of consistent support both within the arena and outside. Arizona is a weird sports state. They support their teams, but the overall vibe of their fanbases in each sport is “blase” most of the time. Not even Wayne Gretzky’s presence as part-owner and head coach could spark consistent interest.

The ‘yotes haven’t even been relevant in any way since their 2012 Western Conference Finals loss to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings. Throughout all the jersey changes, ownership and front office shifts, the constant has been lack of interest. Maybe it is just not meant to be. There are many people who don’t even know a Coyotes fan.

Sad.

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San Jose Sharks.
The Sharks fanbase is unique, in that San Jose is relatively close to San Francisco, but San Jose is a distinct (and rather largely populated) region unto itself. It creates a niche market with regards to hockey, but it is a more intimate one, as a result. Ever since the Sharks came into existence in 1991, they have been relevant. For the first few years, it was due to their aggressive color schemes and Sharks logo, which were all the rage in hip hop and other genres who favored sports team jerseys in the 1990s. Once they drafted longtime and still-playing “Mr. Shark” Patrick Marleau in 1997, the Sharks have been consistently good — albeit saddled with a label as being a perennial Playoff Choker. Despite this, their fans are right there supporting them every year, with the hopes that the choke jobs of years past are in the past. In 2017, following a Stanley Cup Finals run in 2016, those hopes were dashed yet again. Nevertheless, Sharks fans are a good bunch. Outside of the California teams (more on them shortly), there isn’t much of a strong hatred for them. Some of the western Canadian teams’ fans may disagree, but it is nothing like the hatred back east, which has festered for several decades.

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Los Angeles Kings.
The Kings play in Los Angeles. You know what that means.

Late-arriving, fair-weather fans. And until 2012, that is precisely what comprised the Kings’ fanbase; which many accused of being bandwagon fans. It was not an entirely improper accusation in many cases, but the Kings have indeed had many longtime fans in their 50-year history in the NHL.

Before 2012, however, the franchise’s fans weren’t all that noticeable on a national level; unlike the Original Six teams’ fans and the east coast-based teams. For those of us who grew up in the 80s, you knew more about the shocking Wayne Gretzky trade from Edmonton to Los Angeles mere weeks after the Oilers won their fourth Stanley Cup in 1988, and the trials and tribulations of former owner Bruce McNall than you did any of their fans.

With the burgeoning social media era, armed with a notoriously witty Twitter account, Kings fans have become more noticeable and vocal; particularly after winning the Stanley Cup in both 2012 and 2014.

They’re not too fond of their next-county-over rivals, the Ducks, however.

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Anaheim Ducks.
If you grew up in the 80s and into the 90s, you remember the sports comedy, “The Mighty Ducks” from 1992. The team was founded by the Walt Disney Company in 1993, and has experienced good success since its inception. Unlike some of the teams listed here, while they have become playoff chokers in recent years, they’ve actually won a Stanley Cup (in 2007). As such, they haven’t changed their goal song ever since that year. On one hand, can you blame them? On the other, the massive playoff failures ever since might lead the superstitious among them to want to go for a change.

Not to suggest that the goal song is the reason for those failures (we know how random hockey can be), but… just saying.

The Ducks (overall) have good fans, and they are knowledgeable. They are realists about their team these days. In the year or two after their Cup victory, they had become insufferable (as many can recall, even before Twitter became large), but that is understandable. Now they’re just a good, solid bunch.

Even if Kings…

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and Sharks fans vociferously object.

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Do Not Play Zynga Poker (And By All Means Do NOT Buy Chips) Fair Warning


Do Not Play Zynga Poker (And By All Means Do NOT Buy Chips) Fair Warning
M.D. Wright
4.29.2017
I left Zynga Poker alone in 2014 and came back in a spell of boredom a few months ago. Worst decision ever. Game’s even worse now.
 
n two separate games I have seen crooked shit occur. One guy was calling huge raises and his pot did not change at all through each one.
 
Another time (this happens frequently on big tables), you can see card manipulation occurring, and naturally the bot/Zynga employee wins.
 
Literally, the last time I saw it happen, the card stuttered from the one that had me in the lead, and the river card switched also.
 
And whoever/whatever it was… bot, Zynga Employee, hacker/cheater magically gets the card THEY needed to win $110M hands. A joke and a scam of a company.
If for whatever reason you still want to play that game, don’t be like some of the people who I read about who buy chips. It has been long known that there are hacks, programs and the aforementioned card manipulation and scamming that occurs which causes you to lose. No matter how skilled of a poker player you are, YOU. WILL. LOSE.
Beware.
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