Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Another Five Questions (Cross-Posted from PPP)

The NHL draft is so close I'm sure those of you heading to Montreal are already counting it in "sleeps."

Here's a little known fact: since the lockout, the entry draft has generated as many, if not more, deals as trade deadline day. In 2008, 26 trades went down on deadline day a stunning 45 went down at the draft.

Another little known fact: Montreal's not really much of a party town. Other than the draft there really isn't all that much fun stuff to see and do (oh, who am I kidding...)

With what seems like half of the PPP members headed to Montreal for the draft festivities, the Leafs on the cusp of another top 10 draft pick and trade rumours going around like a bad cold here are this week’s five questions.

A while ago (could have been a decade ago or it could have been last March – once you have kids time becomes a rather blurry thing) there seemed to be a real run on the issue of "why write?"

Harper's Magazine dedicated an entire issue to the question. Airport bookstores were full of trade paperbacks about how to read, what to read, books of that were little more than lists of books from Bloom's Western Canon to an entire New York Times book section dedicated to an alternate one It was as though the choice of reading material suddenly became of great import and, accordingly, a sub-industry emerged to address it.

As much as I love to read and as much as I love to ask all sorts of (goofy) questions, the issue of how or what to read seems ludicrous to me. I'd like to think we're past the point where people have to (or more importantly have to pretend to) dig Bellow or Blood Meridian or any of the other so-called important books (although if you didn't like James Baldwin's The Price of the Ticket or pretty much anything by Chekhov you're just plain wrong).

One of my favourite pieces of writing that came out of this period was by Paul Auster, one of many authors who weighed in on the all important question of "Why write?"

Just as we approached the wall I caught sight of Willie Mays. There was no question about who it was. It was Willie Mays, already out of uniform and standing there in his street clothes not ten feet away from me.

I managed to keep my legs moving in his direction and then, mustering every once of my courage, I forced some words out of my mouth, "Mr. Mays," I said, "could I please have your autograph?"

He had to have been all of twenty-four years old, but I couldn't bring myself to pronounce his first name. His response to my question was brusque but amicable.

"Sure kid, sure," he said. "You got a pencil?"

He was so full of life, I remember, so full of youthful energy, that he kept bouncing up and down as he spoke.

I didn't have a pencil, so I asked my father if I could borrow his. He didn't have one, either. Nor did my mother. Nor, as it turned out did and of the other grownups.

The great Willie Mays stood there watching in silence. When it became clear that no one in the group had anything to write with, he turned to me and shrugged.

"Sorry, kid," he said. "Ain't got no pencil, can't give no autograph."

And then he walked out of the ballpark into the night. I didn't want to cry, but tears started falling down my cheeks, and there was nothing I could do to stop them. Even worse, I cried all the way home in the car. Yes, I was crushed with disappointment, but I was also revolted at myself for not being able to control those tears. I wasn't a baby. I was eight years old, and big kids weren't supposed to cry over things like that. Not only did I not have Willie Mays' autograph, I didn't have anything else, either. Life had put me to the test, and in all respects I had found myself wanting.

After that night, I started carrying a pencil with me wherever I went. It became a habit of mine never to leave the house without making sure I had a pencil in my pocket. It's not that I had any particular plans for that pencil, but I didn't want to be unprepared. I had been caught empty handed once, and I wasn't about to let it happen again.

If nothing else, the years have taught me this: if there's a pencil in your pocket there's a good chance that one day you'll feel tempted to start using it. As I like to tell my children, that's how I became a writer.

Given the ubiquity of computers, PDAs, notebooks, tablets and even cell phones in our lives and the user friendly software and platforms available to all, I’m surprised the once prominent question "why write?" hasn’t been turned on its head.

You’d think some enterprising marketer would look at twitter, the twelve billion blogs out there - even the fan shots and fan posts on this site - and create a whole new marketing segment targeted at answering the question: "Why aren’t you writing?"

Blogging, may be the easiest form of writing. All you need is a parental basement and a neighbour with unprotected wi-fi so you can surf for free. You don’t need pants, access, discretion, standards and apparently there’s zero accountability.

But what happens when Bloggers get access? (Other than putting on pants, of course).

Our own overlord, PPP, has gone from a humble blogspot account to cross-posting at Battle of Ontario, to being the co-proprietor of the sprawling empire known as PPP Amalgamated Heavy Industries here at SBNation. With the entry draft on Friday, PPP will take another giant step in the evolution of writing as he goes from being a typical blogger to a fully accredited member of the press at the NHL draft on Friday. Yeah, that’s right - our very own PPP now has full fledged media credentials.

Which brings me to our first question…

1. How will PPP shoulder the weight of accountability that being a member of the press brings? Will a press pass change him (less typos, more insightful reporting? More rumour mongering? Trading insults with Strachan and Milbury? Still pantless but at least wearing a neck tie?) More importantly, who do we want PPP to seek out at the draft and what do we want him to ask?

# # #

Sticking with the theme of writing and writers, I just finished a great Gay Talease essay on the birth of the Paris Review.

Formed in 1952 by a group of men in their mid-20s, the Review was one of the first magazines that encouraged writers to speak with other writers about their craft. It’s an interview format the magazine still features to this day.

The initial editor of the magazine was George Plimpton. When I was a kid, Plimpton struck me as being a very old guy with a bit of a pompous accent and a tendency to wear his sweaters knotted at the neck and draped over his shoulders. He made cameos in the occasional film; got name checked in lots of places and seemed to be held with just a bit too much esteem by a wide variety of folks. It was easy enough for a snotty kid like me to turn my nose up at him.

As I get older, I realize Plimpton did a host of absolutely incredible things. He was a progenitor of participatory journalism, putting himself in harm’s way to see what it felt like to be a quarterback facing an NFL pass rush. He played net in an exhibition game for the Boston Bruins and fought three rounds against former light-heavyweight Champion of the World Archie Moore. He pitched against the National League All-Star team, got to play golf on the PGA tour in the 1960s and took a drubbing on the tennis courts from Pancho Gonazles who was the top ranked men’s tennis player in the 1950s and 60s.

If that weren’t enough, he also hung out with Hemingway, pried the gun out of the hands of Bobby Kennedy’s assassin, drove a tank in WWII and was featured in an episode of the Simpson’s.

2. If participatory blogging ever takes off, what closed profession would you immerse yourself in for a story? Skate with the Leafs? An at bat with the Jays? A lap in an F-1 car? A limo ride with Howard Berger?

# # #

The Boston Red Sox went 86 years without winning the World Series and the media only mentioned the Curse of the Bambino about 12 billion times.

No San Diego team has won a championship and San Diego is the largest metropolis in North America to be 0 for in Championships. None of the Chargers, Padres, Clippers and Rockets have won a World Series, Super Bowl or NBA Championship (although the Chargers won the AFL Championship in 1963).

What’s worse, none of these teams have managed to compile a winning record either. It seems this futility is the result of the ominously named Curse of San Diego.

The Cubs haven’t won a World Series in 111 101 years and haven’t appeared in the World Series finals since 1954. Cubs fans have to deal with a trio of supposed curses – the curse of the black cat, the goat and Steve Bartman.

As far as I know there are no good hockey curses.

There’s the whole Bill Barilko thing, but that’s more of an interesting factoid than it is an actual curse. It’s not like the Barilko widow said the Leafs won’t win until his remains are recovered.

Given some of the Championship droughts out there (Hawks are at nearly years, Leafs are 40+, Sabres, Bruins, Kings, Blues, Hawks, Leafs, Canucks and Capitals are all at 35+ years) you’d think curses would abound.

3. If you could curse a city, franchise or a player – who would you curse and why – and what would you call your curse?

# # #

As we all know, one of the beloved blogs of the Barilkosphere shut down today. The mighty Cox Bloc is no more. They will be going on to a bigger and better blog, but that new home is so far nameless.

I was trying to think of something clever that combined a pop culture reference with hockey or maybe even an inside joke. In riffing on November (back when it mattered) I contemplated the big hit by Guns N Roses, "Cold November Rain" and even went so far as to watch the video.

That video came out almost 20 years ago, but the distance of time did not quite prepare me for the 9:20 seconds of strangeness the video contains. Axl takes a sleeping pill and dreams of various churches, live shows, hanging out with the band and marrying Stephanie Seymour (Slash smokes through the ceremony).

At the reception, people dash from the rain strom as if it were sniper fire, the bride loses her bouquet and one guest dives rhrough the cake (he can't get wet, but icing all over his suit appears to be a solid option).

Next thing you know, we're at Stephanie Seymour's funeral and she's in a casket. Axl looks like the love child of Paul Williams and Diane Keaton.

4. What the heck is up with this video? Are Stephanie Seymour and the other people in the video some form of M. Night Shyamalan character that can be killed by water? Why does Slash have a hat and shirt on in the church, but when he goes outside to do a blistering guitar solo with the helicopter shot, he's shirtless and hatless? Most importantly, what can we learn from this to name the new Cox Bloc home?

# # #

In 1991, the Quebec Nordiques drafted Eric Lindros even though Lindros had publicly stated numerous times that he would never play for the team.

After a year long hold-out, Nordiques GM Pierre Page traded Lindros in June, 1992. There was a little problem with the trade though, it seems Page traded Lindros twice – to the Flyers and to the New York Rangers.

The NHL had to appoint an arbitrator to determine which trade was valid and which team would get Lindros (bizarre-o world side-note, the arbitrator was Larry Bertuzzi, great uncle of NHLer Todd Bertuzzi)

Philly "won" the decision and the Nordiques would go on to become one of the most dominant franchises of the mid to late 90s thanks in part to the players they received from Bobby Clarke (Peter Forsberg, Mike Ricci, Ron Hextall, Chris Simon, Kerry Huffman, Steve Duchesne, two first-round picks and $15 million). The Nords/ Avs won two cups with those pieces and the Flyers made it to a Cup Final.

5. Has there been another draft day deal that rivals the Lindros trade in terms of players, picks, cash and finals appearances? With Leaf fans everywhere hoping Burke can pull a rabbit out of the hat, we will we see another huge draft day deal on Friday or Saturday?

No comments:

Post a Comment