Friday, September 30, 2011

End of Line

Well, that's all she (and by "she" I mean "I") wrote for this blog. If you want to see what I'm up to now, you can find me over at The Imitation European. Until then, I'll leave you with one last, eternal: Go, Sabres! (Except please don't win the Cup this year when I'm half the globe away. That would be very mean of you.)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tie game

At the close of the third period of Game Five, I found myself succumbing to my negative feelings for the first time all series. Given that the Sabres had squandered a 3-0 first-period lead and were being taken to overtime, my bad mood was hardly unreasonable, but that didn't make it any more enjoyable, which was the whole point of my "expect nothing" strategy. Luckily I had the intermission before OT to reflect on the game and center myself.

Once I reasoned it out, I realized that there were in fact only two ways the game could go: either the Sabres were going to score and win, in which case it wouldn't matter that they had ever given away a 3-0 lead, or they were going to be scored on and lose, in which case it wouldn't matter that they ever had a 3-0 lead in the first place. In short, we were right back to where we were at the start of the game, when I had been prepared to see them lose. Why should I feel any differently just because a half-dozen goals had been scored? Forget those goals. The next one was all that mattered.

That game and the next, which had a similar plot but an opposite ending, were a crash course in what I think will be the greatest lesson I will take away from this series: No lead is safe in the playoffs, which is okay, because most playoff games aren't won by holding big leads. They're won by breaking ties.

Forget Games 1-6. The next one is all that matters.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Pensieve

I have a lot of thoughts to get out of my head and not much time before puck drop, when it's sure to get even more crowded up there, so in the interest of not getting discouraged to the point of scrapping the whole thing, I'm foregoing the whole cohesive post format and putting some bullets in this bitch.

  • Before I get into specific reactions to Game Four, a little backstory: As I mentioned last post, I moved out of WNY six years ago, and since then I've had to watch a lot of hockey games alone. I came up with some creative ways to keep that fun (including this blog), but there was a reason I always looked forward to going home to watch hockey with my family. Nothing replaces the real thing. Hockey spectating is an activity that calls for constant commentary: analysis, praise, curses, jokes. Despite what my blog byline may imply, I don't like talking to myself as much as I like talking to other people. Luckily, I've finally managed to mold a real hockey companion for myself, out of one of the least likely candidates. When I first met my boyfriend two years ago, he told me, over the course of one of our very first conversations, that he hated all sports and would never go to a game with me. Challenge accepted. I eventually made him eat those words (twice) and like it, but I still teasingly refer to him as the Square whenever he declares himself against something he's barely tried, like dancing and wearing purple. I'm working on turning him around on those things, too. Anyway, Wednesday night's game seemed like the kind of affair it would be terrible to have to watch alone, and I've seen enough of those to know. It was far more entertaining, not to mention less stressful, to have the Square by my side.
  • Speaking of quality game-time companions, boy was I glad to hear RJ's voice. Because of the way I get access to games, I don't always get to choose the Sabres feed. I've had to put up with the Flyers announcing team twice this series, and the Versus team once, which was actually even worse. Since when is the goalie ripping off his helmet to stop the play a "great, veteran move," I ask you? Either his buckle really did break, in which case it wasn't any kind of a move at all, just a necessity, or it didn't, in which case it was cheating. Boo.
  • Now on to the game: This is old news at this point, but Tyler Myers was a literal beast out there the other night. I said back in the day that I hoped he would prove to be a BFG, but I think that game revealed that he's actually one of the other breeds of giant. You know, the ones that steal children out of their beds at night and eat them whole. Him dragging Mike Richards 15 feet across the ice, with a ref hanging on for the ride, was like something out of a creature feature horror film. All that was missing was the blood spatter and sound of gnashing teeth. I loved it. Sure, he walked the line a bit and took some penalties for it, but this team has been cursed with enough bigger players who refuse to play their size (Kotalik, Stafford) for me to see a big guy with a mean streak as anything but a very good thing. Thanks to that performance, I am officially not scared of the rumored return of Chris Pronger tonight.
  • It wasn't just Myers throwing his weight around either. At the opposite end of the spectrum we had Gerbe, who may have a lot less to throw, but seemed intent on making up the difference with frequency and intensity. If I had control over these things, I would have given him the Carrubba Collision over Kaleta, just for sheer guts.
  • That five minute power play. Ugh. I had just finished saying that I think the reason our power play is so much less poopy than in seasons past is that they've finally mastered the dump-and-chase, and what do they spend that five minutes doing? Trying to dipsy-doodle the puck across the blue line despite every Flyer on the ice being camped out there. It's simple, Sabres: shoot the puck in, and then go get it! You used to be terrible at the second part, I know, but you're actually pretty good at it now, so I don't know why you were so afraid of trying it. Especially after being denied at the blue line for the tenth time in a row. Insanity is having to watch your hockey team doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
  • One of the funniest moments of the game (which wouldn't have been nearly so funny if we had ended up losing) was that Grier and McCormick odd man rush in the second period. If you're the Flyers, those are definitely the guys you want to give up those types of chances to. As the Square said as they headed toward the net, "They won't even have to slow this play down to analyze it." Anyone who's read this blog (anyone?) knows that that kind of offensive ineptitude is the key to my heart, and with Hecht out, I'll take it where I can get it.
  • Speaking of Yo-Yo, what the heck is going on with him? I can't, for the love of Google, figure out exactly what his injury is, but he better have a better excuse than a broken finger this time. I haven't seen my favorite player in the playoffs since 2007. That blows.
  • I was super happy to hear the "Ry-an Mil-ler" chants the other night. Both because he truly deserved them and because we've finally replaced the chants of "U-S-A," which never really made much sense.
My head is now officially empty. Bring on Game Five!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


I haven't lived in Western New York for almost six years, essentially the whole time I've been a serious hockey fan. This is, of course, unfortunate in a lot of ways. All told I have been able to see maybe a third of the games the Sabres have played over that time, and then not always with the best video quality or announcing team. I've had to sacrifice quite a bit, but what I hate missing out on the most is the connection between the team and the local community, which I think is stronger in Buffalo than just about anywhere else in the league. I was lucky enough to fully experience it briefly in 2007, when I made it home for the summer literally just in time for Drury's 7.7 second goal. I was also lucky (lucky?) enough to be one of thousands in the plaza to watch the Sabres eventually fall to the Senators in Round Three. Even though the series itself left a bad taste in my mouth, the pure electric atmosphere outside the arena on that day is something I will never forget. And it kills me to know that something like that is going on right now and I'm missing it. It's even worth putting up with snow in April if you ask me. (Especially since Minnesota seems intent on making me put up with snow in April either way.)

The problem with a community that cares as much about its sports teams as Buffalo does is that it really cares, and if there's one way in which my long distance relationship with the Sabres has been an advantage, it's this: It's been undoubtedly easier to remain positive--or at least not drown in my negative feelings. The collective voice of the Buffalo sports fan is famously one of bitterness. Our championship void somehow makes us more prone to criticize everything, whether that means nitpicking a win or overreacting to a loss. It's like we're afraid that someone will try to blame us for our teams' persistent lack of success, and so pass up no opportunity to point the finger at anyone and everyone else. I say "we," because whether he accepts or rejects it, every Buffalo sports fan (and probably every regular Buffalonian, too, for that matter) is aware of and implicated in this mentality. Not all fans react this way, but those that do somehow always find a way to make themselves heard, usually on sports talk radio, and that affects and reflects on the rest of us. This narrative is so pervasive, in fact, that even those in the "objective" local media seem to think that being relentlessly negative is telling us what we want to hear.

Which is why I'm sometimes glad that I only interact with the Sabres fanbase through blogs. For the past few years, blogs--typically written by those among the silent, sane majority--have been creating a kind of fan counterculture on the internet. Maybe it's because those are the fans who feel underrepresented in the mainstream media narrative, or because they just realize that with a whole website's worth of cyberspace at their disposal, instead of the limitations of a YouTube comment or a couple of seconds on WGR, they can afford to think through things a little more. Either way, my exposure to the irrational, pessimistic, once-bitten-twice-shy Fanus Sabreus over the last few years has been minimal, and I believe I am less susceptible to its sting of insanity because of it. I admit I felt myself spiraling after the clock ran down Monday night, but instead of dwelling on it, I decided to watch some of The West Wing, go to sleep, and try to make sense of it all in the morning. Good choice. The next day I visited some blogs I had never been to before, and was greeted by some classic over-reactions. Instead of making me panic, they just made me smile. It had been so long since I had heard from the type of fan who declares Game Three in a 1-1 series a "must win," or a 2-1 series officially lost, that all I could do was chuckle and shake my head at the predictability. I expect if I encountered opinions like this everyday I would find them less amusing than annoying, but I live in Minnesota, so thankfully I don't have to. As a result, the odd over-reaction in my blog rounds just makes it easier for me to under-react.

That loss was tough, but this series is far from over. Bring on Game Four.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Number 48

It's come to my attention that certain Sabres fans out there are just now deciding to set aside their feelings of goodwill towards Danny Briere. I would ask these people where they've been for the last four years, but I'm sure they're not part of my audience (because no one is).

Seriously, people still like this guy? Really, her? I mean, I understand not wishing his career would go up in overhyped, overrated, overpaid flames like I for one did when Chris Drury left. (And, man, is it just me or is that working out like gangbusters?) After all, it's pretty clear by now that Briere wanted to stay with the Sabres but the feeling just wasn't mutual. No matter what we personally felt about keeping him, we're forced to accept that this one is on us. But to my mind, that entitles him to be spared jokes about him eating his own boogers and not much else. If Briere the Sabre was your absolute favorite player, I can see spending a season or two pining and getting nostalgic whenever he visited, but four years is just excessive.

Setting aside for the moment that he's a Flyer now, he's just a very unlikeable player to play against. He's a creative, skilled little punk who won't pass up a chance to score a goal, draw a penalty or throw a slightly cheap shot behind the play. Sure, these are all things that made him a great player to root for when he played for us, but the thing is he doesn't play for us, so not only are we not obligated to like him for all those reasons, it just wouldn't make logical sense. Why would you want your competition's best players to do anything but disappear?

Plus, you know... HE'S A FLYER NOW. If the Flyers-Sabres history isn't enough to turn your stomach, then that putrid shade of orange sure should be. There's only one player who I managed not to despise for donning that color, and I don't think anyone will ever again be able to duplicate the perfect storm of lovable personality and somewhat hapless hockey skills of Marty Biron. As it was, it was tough separating my love for Marty from my hatred for everyone else around me, and if he had been just a bit more of a goaltending threat, I'm not sure I would have been able to manage it. (On a side note: I had totally forgotten until I just googled that Biron is part of the Rangers system, now. I'm sure my brain intentionally misplaced that information to save me from having to reconcile that disparity of affection. In fact, I think it best if I vow never to think of it again.) Point being: Danny Briere Marty Biron, and I don't see the point of liking a Flyer who is not Marty Biron.

Fortunately, I only have to address myself to the fans in this matter, as the players seem to be getting it right (see above). It's been far from perfect, but I have very few complaints about this series as we head into Game Three in Buffalo, and I want to see us give number 48 in orange our most ruthless reception.

TL;DR: If I were in charge of the music in HSBC tonight, this song would be getting a spin:

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


"Expectations is the place you must always go to before you get to where you're going. Of course, some people never go beyond Expectations, but my job is to hurry them along whether they like it or not."
-The Whether Man, from Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth
If Expectations really is a city (and as a rule I always believe everything Norton Juster tells me), then Sabres fans are advised to locate it on a map sometime before tomorrow's game in Philly. The postseason is an emotional time, and I find that the best way to keep things in perspective is to get a head start.

Here's the good news about Expectations, though: It can be anywhere you want it to be! Which makes it hard to plug into your GPS, but that's fine because you can never get lost on your way to a place whose location you decide on.

I've toyed around with this idea in the past, but I've always stopped short of saying what I really mean. No longer.

My expectations for the Sabres are low, and I'm proud of it!

Now, let me be clear: I am neither a pessimist nor a pushover. When I say that I don't expect the Sabres to win the Cup or even make it out of the first round this year, I don't mean to imply that I actively expect them not to do these things (where would be the fun in that?), just that I don't need them to happen before I'll feel like the whole thing hasn't been a total waste. I also reject any notion that my low standards somehow mean that I am weak, soft, or unambitious. While those assessments might be valid for low standards in practically any other area of life, I don't see the correlation when it comes to sports, mainly because the standard to which I hold my favorite team has absolutely no effect on anything other than my enjoyment of what is to come.

By day, when I'm not avoiding my blogging, I work in a school, so I understand that setting high expectations, whether behavioral or academic, is the first step toward success in those areas. But the necessary second step (AKA the hard part) is consistently enforcing those high expectations. As a sports fan, taking the first step is easy enough, but since the second will always be beyond our reach, why bother? We can ban all the orange, not wash all the jerseys, grow all the beards we want, but at the end of the day, we will never be able to trade or bench a player, score a goal or block a shot. So I ask: Why set our expectations high when we have no control over whether or not they are met?

Let me put it another way. If I say, "I will not be satisfied with this blog post until it is at least six paragraphs long, posted by 9:00pm, and somewhat not confusing," I am setting a goal, and thus motivating myself to reach that goal, and not settle for anything less. But if I say "I will not be satisfied with this Sabres season until they beat the Flyers," all I'm doing is making it more likely that I walk away unhappy.

The way I see it, we shouldn't be afraid to keep our expectations low for the same reason we shouldn't be afraid to let our hopes soar high. What have we got to lose?

Of course, this is easier said than done. If the hard part of maintaining high expectations is resisting the temptation to lower them when things get hard, then the hard part of maintaining low expectations is resisting the temptation to raise them when things get good. Here's hoping the Sabres tempt me plenty, but that I manage to remember that, at least by my count, the Whether Man already hurried the Sabres along out of Expectations some weeks ago.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Swan Song

Well, it's been almost a year, but I'm not going to waste time explaining where I've been all this time. Aside from the fact that it's not a very interesting story, by the time anyone reads this (which I'm assuming will be sometime after the profession "cyber-archaeologist" becomes viable), people will have forgotten that I was ever around to begin with, let alone gone for so long.

Instead, I'm going to waste time explaining why I've chosen to come back now.

The obvious and easy answer is, of course, the playoffs. I woke up this morning and realized that the Sabres may just win the Cup this year (not that I at all expect them to--more on that, hopefully, before Thursday) and that if they did, I would regret having let this blog die a quiet, shameful, and untimely death. Among other things, it crossed my mind that without an online outlet, my real-life friends could be exposed to my boundless jubilation without a buffer. It would be like forcing them to look directly into the sun.

Even without the Cup, though, there would still be plenty to regret. For a good part of the season I put off blogging with the excuse that the Sabres weren't doing anything worth writing about. Not only is this no longer the case (and hasn't been for a while), today I realized that in fact the opposite is now true: it's not worth not writing about what the Sabres are doing. I don't just have no excuse anymore, I have negative excuse. There's obviously something special going on with this team, and I would be stupid not to want to make myself a part of it. If this makes me a bandwagon blogger, then so be it, but here's hoping I haven't strapped myself in just in time for the magic to run out.

The other reason for the timing of my return has nothing to do with the Sabres and everything to do with me. I've decided that after this season, I'm retiring as a hockey blogger, which means I have the postseason, one last shot, to do this thing right. (In this case, "doing it right" pretty much means "doing it at all." We set the bar low here at Desperation Hockey. And usually spend all our time limboing under it anyway.) The past four years (off and on) of writing this blog has been a highly rewarding experience, even when it was more off than on. I'm not going to get into all the sentimental specifics, but blogging about hockey and reading hockey blogs has without a doubt changed the way I watch the game and the way I think about being a fan.

But the time has come for me to put away the... keyboard. To throw in the... trackpad. To hang up my... failed metaphors. You see, I'm leaving on a jet plane, and while I have a good idea when I'll be back again, it's too long to ask this blog to sit around waiting for me. Come the fall, I'll be following my heart--and monthly deposits from the German government--out to Berlin, which I think is the most wonderful place in the world for everything except blogging about the Sabres. And maybe sushi. Between the time difference, spotty access to the games, and what I anticipate will be a full schedule of living it up, working my butt off, and sleeping, I'll be hard pressed to find any time or relevant content for this old girl, and she deserves better than that. That's why I'm committed to going out with a bang while I still have the chance, instead of inevitably whimpering out in six months with a couple of half-assed posts, and a draft folder full of regrets.

Besides, I plan on chronicling my German adventures in a new blog of some kind, and since I'm a failure at keeping one blog going, I can only assume I'll be twice the failure with two. Once all the details are set for the new digs, I'll make sure to post a link here so that whichever poor soul decides to write his Master's in Cyber-Archaeology thesis on the blogger who called herself Gambler (I'm assuming they get points for obscurity) knows where to start digging next. It won't be a topic blog so much as a general catch-all for my thoughts, musings, introspections, deductions, cogitations, ruminations,, ideations, cerebrations, and mostly-rhyming, synonymic ramblings. Which I'm hoping will translate into more frequent posts, even if they are short and/or unintelligible. And since the Sabres can't stand to see me go to Berlin without them, I'm betting hockey gets a mention at least once.

Stay tuned.

Friday, April 23, 2010

A Somewhat Familiar Letter of Proposal

I know that Earth Day was yesterday, but I figure it's never a bad time to celebrate the power of reduce, recycle, reuse, and why should paper products get all the glory? It's pretty obvious by now that whatever paper can do, the internet can do better. It's also fairly obvious that when it comes to littering my blog with posts, I've got reduce down pat. But, as a resourceful (read: lazy) blogger, I've also discovered that--with a little recycling--a year old post is still perfectly reusable. Observe:

Dear Matt Tyler Ellnnis,

I know we don't know each other very well. (Well, I don't know you very well, and you don't know me at all.) But I was hoping I could ask you something.

Even though I was very pleased with the Sabres' win over the Bruins, I'm still very wary of trusting them to keep it up. And even though I love Yo-Yo deep down, we're still on the outs because of him missing four (4!) open nets yesterday breaking all of his fingers recently.

So, I was wondering if maybe you wanted to marry me? You know, for a little while?

You played like a fox yesterday tonight, a fox that is very good at spunky hockey, and I would like to reward you accordingly.

Please circle YES, NO, or MAYBE.


P.S. This is totally how marriage works, right?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Walking the Walk

The Boston Bruins took a 3-1 series lead about half an hour ago, and I'm guessing the hours to come are going to see a lot of people clogging the interwebs with their expressions of anger and disappointment in this team, as is their right. But before those messages get out there (and before I have the chance to be sucked in and corrupted by them) I wanted to make sure this message gets out there, too.

Quite long ago in time, but just a scroll of the mouse away in space (see "I'm a Horrible Blogger" tag) I talked a big talk about not letting your expectations ruin the ride. About 3 minutes after the final buzzer of game four, I was feeling upset and let down and frustrated and (yes, I'll admit it) on the verge of tears, when I suddenly realized I was practicing exactly what I had preached against. I had to take a step back to consider.

It seems everyone (myself included) went into this series expecting the Sabres to win it. Maybe not in a cake walk, maybe in a nail biter, but the standings and the numbers and the rosters all seemed to point to Buffalo being the better team. Were we wrong to expect this? Time will tell, and it certainly seems likely, but I can tell you where I made my mistake. In my head, I'd already moved past this series. I was looking ahead, past Boston, praying that Pittsburgh would beat Ottawa so we would have the assurance of not having to face the Sens. I was doing exactly what I had said I wasn't going to do in that previous post: I had turned the Bruins into the opening act, before I was even assured of a headliner. I was ruining all my fun before I'd even had any.

Once I realized this, I decided I had two questions to come to terms with. The first was: Do I stay hopeful? I know this is going to seem naive, but I genuinely still have hope that the Sabres can win this series. Why? For the simple reason that it's more fun than the alternative. Also because it's not totally outside the realm of possibility. It's cliched to say "if they can win three in a row, so can we," but really, so can we. The games have been so close, and there still seems to be fight left in them. Now, I doubt I'm alone in this terribly optimistic view, even if the people who agree with me don't have blogs, but this next one I'm not so sure about:

What happens when there's no hope left? Does that mean they've let me down?

In dealing with this question, I've been thinking a lot about the phrase "one and done." It was thrown around pretty freely before the playoffs by many a Sabre doubter, and at the time I took it at face value as something fundementally gross and disappointing, but now I find myself wondering about it. Does "one and done" have to mean "failed to meet all expectations"? Does it have to mean "rolled over and died"? Does it have to mean "heartless," "gutless," "lazy"? Well, if the Sabres do end up being one and done, and this is their one, I'm going to have to say no.

One and done can be a battle, and it can be thrilling, and it can even be fun, if you let it. After re-evaluating my priorities and expectations, I decided that all I really, absolutely expect the Sabres to achieve this postseason is showing me some playoff hockey. And folks, that, tonight, was some bonafide playoff hockey. That wasn't the Sabres giving up, or getting steam-rolled, or being out-muscled. It was them being unlucky, being momentarily stupid, being unfocused at the wrong time and having to pay for it. They clearly did not play a great game, but still, that was a great hockey game, and it wasn't all because of how well the Bruins were playing. Obviously it would have been much, much better if they'd won, or not given up their two-goal lead (again), or not taken stupid penalties, etc., but I'm not going to expect perfection, even perfect outcomes. I just want to see some good hockey, and I saw some great hockey tonight. I'm not convinced I took a single breath during both overtimes, and really, what else is the postseason about?

The bottom line, for me, is that this is the Sabres' first playoffs in three years, and if one series is all I'm going to get, I'm going to enjoy the hell out of it. And really, losing aside, there's been a ton to enjoy. (Granted, losing aside, there's still been quite a bit to hate, and I'm sure people will.) I'm not here to tell anybody how to feel (rage and heartbreak are perfectly legitimate and understandable responses), but for the sake of sanity, I invite everyone to keep this in mind:

One and done can be a million times more fun than 9th and 10th place.

If I wanted to be really controversial, I could argue that this series has been more fun to watch than any single series in the 2007 playoffs (or even all of them combined), but it's late and I have to work in the morning. (Moreover, I don't think something can count as controversial if no one bothers to read it.) So instead I'll just close with what I said to my mom about this series the other day: Sure, this series could be a lot less frustrating, but it could also be a lot less fun.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Welcome, Raffi!

Guys, this is the best trade deadline day EVER! I cannot believe the Sabres picked up the guy who sang my absolute favorite childhood song!

This is SO much better than winning a Stanley Cup!!!

UPDATE: Oh. It seems there is actually more than one guy named Raffi in this world. In my defense, how was I supposed to guess that that would ever happen? It turns out the Raffi we got is actually featured in this video.

Heh. I suppose that's still pretty good. But if he thinks that's going to stop me from singing "Baaaby beluuuga, oh, baaaaaaby beluuuuuuuuga!" every time I see him, he's crazy.