Perspective is a wonderfully fascinating state of mind after frustrating results. It's a time when losers are left to make statements through gritted teeth they don't quite mean. "It was an honor just to be nominated," "We were just happy to be here," "It's Bush's fault." But pain plus enough time eventually clears the brain of all stinkin' thinkin' in time to see the delicious pickle left over right after the last bite of a shit sandwich.
The Lightning, despite a few questionable calls by les referees who were clearly huge fans of baguettes and Jerry Lewis, were simply beaten in every way imaginable in a four-game sweep by the Montreal Canadiens. They fought to the very end, but ultimately surprised nobody when it became obvious they were just not ready for the post-season...yet. To call it a pleasant surprise to see the Boltz get anywhere near the playoffs given the circumstances would be a humungous understatement. Like saying Christie Brinkley looks "pretty good" for a 60-year-old. (That's right, folks. National Lampoon's Vacation came out over 30 years ago. Depressed yet?)
Only one team walks away with a win at the end of the season. Well done, boys.
It's here, puck-heads. The Tampa Bay Lightning postseason run has begun. Hop aboard the bandwagon, folks. All are welcome. Think hockey is nothing but hip-checks, fights and goals? Come on down. Don't know a blue line from a clothesline? No problemo. Think offsides is just a football term? Got a spot for you right here. Icing belongs on cupcakes, right? Get your silly ass in that chair and enjoy.
So the Boltz started the series by playing a little ugly, sloppy and give-up-the-pucky Wednesday evening, and still managed to take the Montreal Canadiens to overtime before the inevitable. Lightning goalie Anders Lindback (aka The Guy Not Named Ben Bishop) held his own with 39 saves on the night; it was the five near-misses that ultimately sent Bolt Nation home with frowny faces and less money. But dry your eyes and turn that frown upside-down, prissy pants — this ain't the one-and-done brackets. Like baseball (and Donkey Kong), the Cooper troopers have at least three more lives to untuck their junk and show those French Canucks how we take care of business in Tampa Bay. It isn't just beaches, golf and teachers banging students.
Those who know me are familiar with my admiration of the concept of losing. In most cases, in sports as well as life, it's the only way to learn, to grow, improve, get better and fully earn and appreciate the victories. That's right, losers. You are awesome. (You should know, Bill ... D'oh! Should've seen that coming.) It's how one faces, deals with and hopefully overcomes loss that determines how champions are made. Like brain-damaged philosopher Rocky Balboa once mumbled, "It's not about how hard you hit. It's how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward." Pure gold. And that's why I vomit with rage at the very concept of "Everybody gets a ribbon" — so that the young whipper-snappers don't get their precious little feelings hurt. These touchy-feely twits with the best of intentions end up stunting the character-building growth of little Timmy at a time when losing a T-Ball game isn't the worst thing in the world, and Timmy winds up an oversized, entitled crybaby who goes ballistic when he ends up getting fired one day. Headline: "Lunatic shoots up an office building after not getting a promotion." Maybe keeping score in Little League would have helped prep him for real disappointment. Naw, let's make him one of twelve co-captains. Everybody wins!
Speaking of loss (yes, there was a point to all that crap), the Tampa Bay Lightning lost Steven Stamkos for four months (Boltz kept playing), Marty St. Louis for ... ever (Boltz kept playing), and, currently, stud goalie Ben Bishop indefinitely. The Boltz ... kept ... playing. And winning. Injuries, trades, adversity, and these kids show up and rally around each other with whomever they got tending goal and are still getting it done, shedding hope on a potentially hopeless situation heading into the playoffs. Defeatists from all around Tampa Bay hung their heads and cried into their PBR's and proclaimed the season over after Bishop went down to injury. Again. At a time when the team needed him most. But in waddled Bluto Blutarsky with a couple of Number 2 pencils crammed up his nose to remind us all that nothing was over until we decided it was. It wasn't over after the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor, and it ain't over now.
"Because when the going gets tough ..."
Anders Lindback, the other goalie, stepped in, stepped up and ...
"The tough get going!"
Thanks, Bluto. Anyway, Lindback strapped on the Michael Myers mask and played like the starter he was meant to be, including stopping 34 shots Thursday night in a 4-2 victory over the Flyers from the perpetually repulsive city of Philadelphia. Man down, man up. Heal up the boo-boos, Ben. We got this. Also? Please get better! We are totally screwed without you! Why, God? Why?!
Before the hockey season started, if I told you that A) we weren't sure about the goalie situation; B) the best player on your team would break his leg and be out for four months; and C) your team captain would turn into a diaper-filled crybaby and head to New York, and then capped off the prognostication with, "Playoffs, bitches!", how would you respond? If you were a hyper-militant feminist born tragically without a sense of humor (redundancy alert!), you would most likely convey your outrage at my flippant use of such a derogatory term and kick me in my evil testicles with your Birkenstock. All others would simply accuse me of being drunk. And they would be correct; I like beer. A lot. But the point is, "Playoffs, bitches!"
That's right, folks. The Tampa Bay Lightning have clinched the playoffs for the first time since 2011 after beating the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 Tuesday night. Unfortunately, it came at a cost. Late in the game, for no particular reason, Montreal thug Douglas Murray blatantly, brutally and deliberately elbowed Lightning defenseman Mike Kostka in the coconut, knocking him flat on the ice, possibly unconscious. Murray reportedly has been suspended for three games and Kostka is out indefinitely with a concussion. If it were up to me, the suspension would last as long as our guy is out, then add three games on top of it. Once the suspension is complete, I would duct-tape Murray's arms behind his back and let each of the three Hanson brothers deliver an elbow to his face while Pat Benatar's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" blares in the background. And Erin Andrews gives me a back rub. (What? I'm on a roll.) Since we may very well be seeing those French Canucks again real soon, I hope it's a bloodbath ... metaphorically speaking, of course. I'm not a monster. At least that's what the high-pitched voices in my head keep telling me before I black out.
We've all done things in our youth that, looking back as new members of the "adult" community, we find ... insane. No two ways about it. When my buddies and I toss back a few cold beverages as we stumble down fuzzy-memory lane from time to time, the better stories finish off with something along the lines of, "We're lucky to be alive." Everything from dumpster-diving (literally — one dude pulled a Louganis just outside our fraternity house) to being asked to leave a gentleman's club for being a bit too .. .grabby? Yeah, we'll go with grabby. Point is, it's easier to understand the importance of making good life decisions after a few years of mastering some embarrassingly poor choices. Fun, too! But the young-and-dumb excuse, much like my beer tolerance, has limitations. Playful drunken tickle-fight deteriorating to a very public make-out session with the heavyset babe before last call? Funny. Innocent play-fighting with your brother evolving into somebody getting stabbed in the leg? Not so much.
Which brings us to the latest off-season shenanigans from our beloved Tampa Bay Buccaneer 2014 reboot project still under construction. They should hang a sign in front of One Buc Place that reads, "Pardon Our
Dust Bust." On Sunday, wide receiver and perpetual problem child, Mike Williams, who apparently has been ass-cheek deep in celebrating last year's $40 million contract by throwing loud property-destroying parties to the delight of his Avila neighbors, getting charged with criminal mischief and trespassing in December for kicking in the door of some chick's house, and, of course, missing a lot of football due to injuries, has made the papers again. Apparently, his brother Eric Baylor grabbed a kitchen knife, stabbed Williams in the left thigh and fled the scene. Oh, you know how siblings are. I once gave my brother an Indian-burn that left a mark for like a solid hour. Boy, was Mom pissed. Even though Williams is technically the victim in this latest brush with ridiculousness, it is of the opinion of this sports hack that it's time for head coach Lovie Smith to take this young man by the earlobe, drive him to Tampa International and put him on the first plane out of town. And for good measure, Smith should whisper his concerns to the nearest TSA officer to make sure Williams gets a generous body cavity search beforehand. While we're at it, throw in a screaming baby with explosive diarrhea in the seat next to him. And no peanuts! But that's just me.
Spring Break is over, St. Patrick's Day is but a green puke-stain-blurred memory and the tickets have been officially punched in for the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Time to pop some ibuprofen, make the appropriate apologies ("I grabbed your what?") and hurry up with your brackets before reality barrels in and fucks them all up before Friday morning.
For the first time since 2007, my heart agreed with my head when I picked the Florida Gators to win this year. I have them beating Wisconsin for all the donuts. To show just how much we all think we know about the complexities of picking one team to win while 63 teams lose (or with the play-in games, something like ... what, 90?), another "expert" picked Florida to beat Wichita State. Decent pick ... by a mouse on ESPN. I'm not kidding. Just close your eyes and point.
I hate being right. (How would you even know what that's like, Bill? Shut up.) No sooner did I submit my latest sports commentary on the subject laced with the usual red flags of an early onset of dementia, then my worst fears were confirmed. Grown Ups 2 got snubbed for best picture. Also? Tampa Bay Lightning captain, staple, icon and Stanley Cup champion Marty St. Louis was traded away like a wet A-Rod baseball card with a tear in it found in a urinal ... which may or may not have been put in ... and peed on ... by my evil twin ... OK, I peed on it. It appears St. Louis did have a problem with being passed over for the Canadian Olympic Team by Lightning GM Steve Yzerman after all, and requested a ticket out of T-town. Thanks for the memories, Marty. Your work ethic, leadership, attitude and strength in the face of adversity have been an inspiration to the entire Tampa Bay community; right up until the time you took your puck and went home when things didn't go your way. You are now representing New York and suck a bag of donkey farts.
As free agency rolled into gear, rumors swirled around faster than the one about the pregnant prom queen (that's still sort of scandalous, right?). Over the weekend, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers cleared some cap cash by knocking off two-time Pro Bowl guard, fan favorite and all-around great guy Davin Joseph. Buc Nation immediately reacted with profanity-decorated dissatisfaction and wondered why the axe wasn't applied to the other guard — the one with a disgusting and seemingly perpetual case of MRSA. (Have you Googled the image yet yet? Tasty.) Unfortunately, while cutting Carl Nicks would sound a tad more palatable, not to mention sanitary, it won't save the team a dime. So, the Bucs will most likely slap some Neosporin or something on that infected piggy and hope for the best. Once the Tuesday shopping extravaganza was made official at 4 p.m., the Bucs hit the player malls like a drunken 16-year-old with daddy Glazer's credit card. A quarterback, tight end, pass rusher, corner and giant offensive tackle are now slated to wear the brand-new ugly uniform for Tampa Bay, and that's just since Thursday. All for the low, low price of a Darrelle Revis, who was released Wednesday and signed with whiplash speed by the evil empire in New England, who didn't have to give the Bucs anything in trade. Enjoy, Pats fans. But remember, Satan will eventually come to collect on the contract Belichik signed in the blood of puppies.
Quick thought on disgruntled Buc fans who perpetually gripe about letting "good" players go and seize every opportunity to stab at the organization on their lack of personnel knowledge with their pointy pointy words: What do you think free agency is all about, slick? Is it a time where all 31 other teams let great players go so we can gobble them up while keeping all our current goodies for ourselves? Or is it something we're going to have to suckle from the teat of reality, and accept that the reason why good players become available in the first place is that the entire league has to make crappy, unpopular decisions, say goodbye to some of our gridiron pals and soldier on? Grow up. None of them will wind up in a van down by the river. Well, not immediately, anyway.
Honorable afterthoughts: Pitcher and still-Tampa Bay Ray David Price is officially named the team's opening-day starter (See? You can learn to stretch $14 million and be happy. Think of all the HBOs you could get — like two at least!); The Tampa Bay Lightning will be celebrating their 10th anniversary of winning the Stanley Cup this weekend, complete with cameos from everything from former players to the cup itself (I only wish Marty were alive to see it. Don't panic, he's only dead to me); and finally, Rays center fielder Desmond Jennings found a snake in his backyard and, after asking for help on Twitter (huh?) and calling animal control, moved into his other house (wha?). "I'd deal with a gator before a snake," he said. Jesus, one crappy football season, and everybody piles on the Gators.
It's Spring Break, bitches. (Bitches ... that's punk/bimbo-speak for "Ladies and gentlemen", right?) The time of year when the young men and women who represent the future of our country take a well-deserved break from not studying on campus to not study on the beaches of sunny Florida. A time when lazy parents turn an even lazier blind eye to their hyper-hormonal children for a week, and turn them loose on tiki bars up and down the coast armed with beer bongs, thongs, condoms, fake IDs and a pair of muscle-bound lungs endlessly loaded with "Whooooooooo!!!" and "Partaaaaaaay!!!!!" Let the boob-flashing, girl-girl kissing, stomach-pumping, balcony-hopping, old-folks terrifying extravaganza begin. 911 operators are standing by.
Our Tampa Bay Rays officially began their version of spring break by meeting in Port Charlotte to throw, hit and catch the baseball for six weeks of training and upside-down Margaritas (allegedly). Plenty of familiar faces, and a couple of new ones here and there, hit the diamond for the Grapefruit League grind against teams whose home fields are currently cesspools of dead grass, snow, tundra and depression. Manager Joe Maddon decided to become one with nature this year, by staying in an RV named "Cousin Eddie" throughout spring training. I don't seem to remember cousin Eddie's ride being equipped with a second bathroom, king-size bed, dance floor, bowling alley and stripper poles. But apparently Maddon has at least two of those. Way to rough it, Skip. So far, highlights include shortstop Yunel Escobar batting a thousand as of Monday (going 4 for 4), David Price still being a Ray, and the nomadic Paleo-Indians that used to chase woolly mammoth through Port Charlotte around 10,000 BC. That's not a joke; somebody told me my articles can cause brain damage, and I wanted you ungrateful bastards to learn something before drooling on your jean-shorts.
The Olympics are like bowling and karaoke. Sure we ridicule it in conversation and act like we don't care. But once you cram your fingers in the e. coli-crusted bowling ball holes or slam a shot of tequila and belt out a little Bon Jovi? Oh, it's on now.
Let's pound on some foreigners.
If anybody needs any evidence of how spiffy government-smothered economics can play out, you need look no further than the days leading up to the Olympic opening ceremonies in beautiful Sochi; come for the pink-eye and Putin pureed stew, stay for the for the packs of stray dogs and urine-stained mattresses. Commie leftovers never tasted so yummy. Now that's good reheated Russia. But fear not: Bob Costas was actually infected by a goo that seeped into the water supply from Chernobyl that will eventually make him the newest superhero in the latest X-Men movie. Move over, Cyclops!
Since football is over, hockey is on hiatus and baseball is so close, yet so far, off we're absolutely jonesing for any nugget of news out of Port Charlotte (David Price missed a workout! Joe Madden has a sweet RV! Wil Meyers left his hat-cam on in the toilet! Awesome!), the Olympics have been on in the background at most bars, dinner tables and living rooms with empty DVRs, engaging some and forcing others to watch, learn and begrudgingly appreciate sports they never watch more than two weeks every four years. Until then, "couples skate" is a term at a roller-rink in junior high signifying to dorks like me that it was time to play Missile Command until the cool kids finished feeling each other up. Now we find ourselves saying, "Say what you want about that dude's purple pirate outfit, it's pretty badass to hold another body over your head with one arm on a couple of blades in front of millions of people, I don't care who you are." Two skinny slabs of plastic are the only thing differentiating skiing and falling down a mountain. And the skeleton? You want to shoot down an ice trail at 100mph on a lunch tray? These athletes whom most of us never heard of are insane and deserve all the part-time recognition and respect they can get, particularly when they represent Old Glory, regardless of whether or not they look like they ride a Disney roller-coaster. And I don't care why curling teams are stuffed with a bevvy of international snow-melting hot females; I'm just happy to tune in to watch them sweep their tight little buns off.
Honorable Afterthoughts: Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith hinted at considering drafting a quarterback in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft (Translation: The Bucs will not be picking a quarterback in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft); the No. 2 Florida Gators beat the Auburn Tigers Wednesday night and have laid claim to be ranked tops in the country after the No. 1 Syracuse lost to unranked Boston College (my hands are sweaty, my mouth is dry and voices in my head have returned ordering me to kill; March Madness is beginning to set in ... that, or my 3 a.m. Nachos Bell Grande is about to make an unscheduled emergency exit. Either way, I'll feel much better soon); as a result of the Martin/Incognito/bullying/racist/sexist/meanie bo-beanie scandal, Miami head coach Joe Philbin promised a better working environment in the Dolphins locker room next year (Players will be hazed with scented candles, secret Santas, trust falls, Barry Manilow music, compliments on their wives' sense of humor and pregame speeches conducted by Stuart Smalley. Look for an 0-16 season filled with self-confidence); and finally, the Russian hockey team is officially out of contention. HA! Take that, you vodka-slurping bastards. Now you'll have more time to smoke in the shower. Ivan Drago was a murderous loser and so are you. Sorry...I'm a product of the '80s. USA! USA!