Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Shitting on the Lettered People, for a Change

A little homage to the good folks over at Fire Joe Morgan, whose fine writing and unrelenting devotion to weeding out hack sports journalism makes me want to grow a giant set of balls so that I’d be able to tell everyone how much bigger theirs are. Nothing eases the blow of finding out that there’s other sports besides hockey out there like Ken Tremendous and the FJM boys.

From Evan Grossman’s ode to Mad Lib hockey journalism, “Avery at center stage of Round 2”:

In the first-round sweep against Atlanta, Avery got under the skin of opponents like Ilya Kovalchuk and Keith Tkachuk, he chipped in on the offensive end and the most effective agitator in the game solidified his reputation among Ranger fans as being a blue-collar maniac they find simply irresistible.

Not since Jon Casey’s mask has the sport of hockey been as emasculated as the day when the lead article for Second Round Playoff opening day on included the phrase “simply irresistible.” Robert Palmer actually just rose from the dead, dug his way out of the grave, went to the town hall, filled out the requisite paperwork, waited three days for a firearms permit, purchased a gun, then shot himself in the head out of shame for popularizing a phrase that would one day be used in such a manner.

“I'm going to hurt them, I'm going to hit them, I'm going to be in their face as much as I can,” Avery told the New York Post in the days leading up to the best-of-seven against the top team in the regular season. The Rangers, following the example set by coach Tom Renney, have not been quick to anoint the Sabres the next Cup championship. They believe – and they have every reason to – that they belong in the playoffs and that they have what it takes to play with Buffalo.

It’s not the fact that the Rangers not rooting against themselves is somehow newsworthy, it’s that it apparently took an example set by the team’s coach for them to do so. Now, I’m as big a Buffalo fan as any out there—except Jack, who quite frankly, scares me a wee bit—but if there are two groups of people out there who I expect to adopt a firmly anti-Buffalo stance out there, it would be 1. The people being paid millions of dollars to beat them and 2. the Sioux.

Except when that comes out of Avery’s mouth, it sounds like this: “I'm sure there's going to be a little bit of adversity,” Avery was quoted as saying this week. “I don't necessarily foresee us winning in four. I anticipate a long series. It could go six games or five.”

I hear seven is a possibility, also. But I’d definitely rule out three.

The Thrashers had special meetings in the first round to instruct players to stay away from Avery, to not listen to him or let him get under their skin. That sticks and stones can break your bones, but names will never hurt.

Says captain Scott Mellanby: “Now that is some hackneyed writing. I’m outta here.”

But ever since Avery arrived in New York in February, he’s molded himself into an important part of the Blueshirt machine. He’s been every bit as important to their success as core guys like Jagr, Shanahan and Lundqvist. Only two other forwards, Jagr and Michael Nylander, got more ice time than Avery against Atlanta, which shows Renney isn’t afraid to have the sparkplug out there.

No, it doesn’t. Do you think Pat Quinn actually wanted to get near enough to Tie Domi’s mouth to tell him to take the ice? You don’t play someone because you’re not afraid to have them out there. You play them because that’s what you’re getting paid to do. But, hey, I’m new at this. Maybe I’m just not psychoanalyzing the stat enough.

The coach can’t seem to play him enough. The fans have been buying up Avery 16 jerseys like they’re going out of style. But more importantly, Avery’s teammates are also smitten with him.

What’s the over/under on the number of times “smitten” will be used as a punchline in the Rangers locker room? Thank God, because Henrik Lundqvist has really been overusing “enamoured”.

“Well, what makes him tick, it's kind of what made him tick in juniors and then into the NHL: He's got a tremendous desire for the game itself,” Shanahan said. “I think he's certainly a guy that, you know, loves the game of hockey. This guy watches hockey games. He loves to play. He loves to practice. He trains hard in the summer. He grew up in Toronto being a big fan of the NHL.

Well, he certainly sounds smitten. Also, new strategy for any Sabres encountering Shanahan on the ice in the coming weeks: he’s easily distracted by the color red and when you jangle keys in front of his face.

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