Thursday, September 02, 2004

Two Week Hockey Season?

One of my favorite aspects of the recently concluded Olympiad in Athens concerned the make-up of the various national teams. I enjoyed seeing NBA stars don the jersey of their native country and play the style of game they play at home. As the NBA gradually becomes more international, the flavor of the game improves.

Of course, the NBA has nothing on the NHL in terms of international flavor. The top pro hockey league may play in North America, and be the Canadian national pasttime, but no longer do the majority of players come from Canada. Europe contributes more players than the United States, and not mere role players, but superstars such as Peter Forsberg, Marian Gaborik, Jaromir Jagr, Sergei Federov, and Mats Sundin.

Prior to the fall of the Iron Curtain, Olympic hockey watchers knew they were seeing awesome teams from the Soviet Union, Sweden, and Czechoslovakia, but really didn't know the players. If you were a hockey fan watching Olympic play just 15 years ago, you were watching one set of flag-inspired jerseys skate against another, as the unknown American & Canadian amateurs skated against the unknown Soviet Bloc pros. Now there is an intimacy of knowledge of all teams, as generally the top two lines and the goaltender are NHL stars.

This would make watching this year's World Cup of Hockey exciting enough for the average hockey fan, but with the NHL and its players union lacking a collective bargaining agreement, the 2004-05 season is in serious jeopardy, giving the real possibility that the Cup series may be the only top-level hockey we'll see until September 2005.

All eyes are on Mario Lemieux, the player-owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins who is the captain of the Canadian team. Now age 38, Lemieux has gone through a huge range of physical maladies, from hip and back problems to Hodgkin's Disease, and has persevered lately just to keep his team alive. Without a season ahead, Lemieux might call it quits for good after this Cup.

The games air in the US on ESPN2, and in Canada on CBC. The games run through Tuesday, September 14's championship game at 7pm (EDST).

One excellent aspect of this Cup is that games are hosted around the world- in Helsinki, Prague, Cologne, St. Paul, Montreal, and Toronto- reducing inherent home-ice advantages.

It figures that I am extremely busy with, well, everything right now, but I will be watching as much as can!

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

DC Trip Notes

Washington DC has never been among my favorite major US cities. New York is far and away the tops, for every reason: the magnificent sense of scale, the skyline, the wonderful food, the depth and range of cultural choices, Central Park... I could rave on and on. In that distant second tier, I rank San Francisco, Seattle, and even Indianapolis ahead of DC in terms of spirit and energy.

DC is frankly very depressing to me. Being the seat of such sprawling bureaucracy alone makes DC intellectually oppressive. But the negative vibe present on the street could crush a sensitive idealist such as myself, had I not been prepared for it. There is no city that is quite so narrow-minded as DC, or as polarized by political affiliation. The liberal grafitti use of the swastika on all things illiberal demonstrates well the irrational hyperbolic demonization the Left uses to smear the Right. The Right counters with the equally irrational and hyperbolic, but at least more positive, "Bush is God" stickers- on every light post and newspaper box. There are plenty of midwestern folks I disagree with on issues, but I tend to believe that I could still reach most of them with a well-reasoned position. I do not have that sense about anyone in DC. Add to this atmosphere of general filth and grime (despite a lack of industry), a huge schizophrenic and/or strung out homeless population, and you have me watching Olympic soccer in the hotel in the middle of the afternoon.

Fortunately, DC is still offers history, and that alone can sustain me through such despair. Showing it all to Alex made it a very satisfying experience, and one I still recommend to families.

The first thing to do is to contact one of your Senators. Don't let it get in the way if you are not a supporter of your Senator, or vote for another party. Their office staff doesn't care. Heck, the staffers can just as easily support another party, too. The reason for contacting your Senator's office is that the only way to tour the White House and other landmarks is to do so on a Senatorial tour. Thanks to security concerns, you can no longer walk up to the White House and get in. The earlier you schedule, the better. I gave it two months lead time and was still closed out of the White House. Fortunately, we did get to tour the Capitol with Richard Lugar's office.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Alex Back to Spain

My son has an in-the-moment outlook that works very well for him, that at times I wish I had. He's flying back to Spain tomorrow and very much looking forward to it. I'm happy for him, but I'm not terribly excited to know that he will be an ocean apart from me.

We had a terrific summer together, with adventures ranging from this past week's DC trip to a white water rafting and camping trip on the New River in West Virginia. I'm hoping that we have a few more summers like it before his Papa Bear is too uncool for him.