Saturday, June 2, 2007

Kobe, Hockey, and White Castle

By Greg Wyshynski

Random thoughts on a random late spring afternoon...

Here's what the Lakers should do with this Kobe situation:trade Bryant, Andrew Bynum, and a No. 1 pick to Miami for Shaq and Dwayne Wade. Even if the Lakers get a maximum of two seasons out of Shaquille, if they win a championship in either of those seasons, it'll drive Kobe into electroshock therapy. Shaq's happy, Phil's happy, Kobe's miserable ... who wouldn't love this? (Well, besides anyone who even remotely calls themselves a fan of the Heat, who'll now have to root for this moody prick instead of D-Wade for the next decade...)

Having the Spurs and the Pistons back in the Finals would be like those days in the elementary school cafeteria when all they were serving for lunch was a choice between Salisbury steak and yesterday's Salisbury steak...

***

I was back in Jersey for a Memorial Day barbeque last weekend, and paid a visit to my old stomping grounds: White Castle hamburger restaurant. We arrived at 1:30 AM; the stoners had already claimed most of the tables, so we ate by our cars in the parking lot, which had a disturbing number of stray cats roaming around. I'm always excited when the Castle ventures away from its traditional wheel house of greasy "slyders"; I can still remember the first time I saw something called "fish nibblers" on the menu.

So a buddy and I tested out the new flavored chicken rings: I had the Hidden Valley Ranch rings, he had the BBQ rings. Basically, the Castle has taken its chicken rings — picture the Burger King onion rings, minus onion, plus what White Castle considers "chicken" — and just dumped a packet of flavoring powder on them. The BBQ rings had that overpowering musk of generic BBQ potato chips; the Hidden Valley Ranch had enough salt in the mix to preserve 80 pounds of raw beef for an oceanic voyage. God, it was wonderful...

***

So A-Rod might be stepping out on his wife and shacking up with a mystery blonde. Yankee fans must be happy; how long have they been waiting for this guy to start hitting something again?

***

All of this nonsense about Michael Vick and dog fighting has finally cleared something up for me. That water bottle with the secret compartment? Obviously built so he could smuggle Kibbles 'N Bits laced with the "28 Days Later" rage virus into the country. (If he got caught, do you think saying "Nah, man, Clinton Portis says it's cool" is a proper legal defense?)...

***

Three hockey thoughts during the Stanley Cup Playoffs:

(1) VERSUS, for all of the flack it gets, can put on a game that's close to what hockey needs to be in order to work on television from a technological standpoint. They've attempted to switch to different ice-level cameras throughout the rink to capture players skating into the zone, which gives the action as sense of speed that the big sweeping pan-and-scan center ice camera cannot.

I've been frequently impressed during this postseason; now all they have to do is sweep out the dead weight on the studio panel, get a nightly highlights show on the air, and revamp the other 20 hours of a network that surrounds NHL hockey with bass fishing, cage fighting, and BBQ competitions. Oh, and about Mark Messier as a studio talking head: next! Every time I've seen him, his preparation and demeanor make it seem like a producer grabbed him two minutes before air time and said, "Yo, Mess, we need one more; you game?"

(2) I had a recent post on the NHL FanHouse blog for AOL Sports that dealt with Ottawa Senators goalie Ray Emery and how the NHL doesn't do a very good job marketing its black and Latino players to mainstream sports fans.

About a week later, Sports Illustrated did a great little two-pager on Emery that hammered home the point, which is that the NHL blew the chance to market the hell out of not only an interesting person, but the first black goaltender to lead his team to the Finals in nearly 20 years.

By the way: on the cover of that issue? Ultimate Fighting Championship. Next time someone asks if the NHL banning fighting will bring more fans to hockey, remind them where the story about the hockey goalie ran vs. the two guys tearing each other's flesh apart on the cover of the magazine.

(3) As expected, there's been a ton of talk about the ratings for hockey and the lack of mainstream media coverage of the Stanley Cup Finals. Let's put this in perspective, shall we? The last four years have given us a team from Florida against a team from Alberta, Canada; a canceled season; a team from North Carolina against a team from Alberta, Canada; and now a team from Southern California not named the L.A. Kings against the capital of Canada.

Celebrate parity, celebrate the fact that these series have produced good hockey, and then remember that any combination of the New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, or Buffalo Sabres against the Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, or Los Angeles Kings reverses both the ratings and coverage trends. That's our sad reality as U.S. hockey fans in a non-hockey nation.

***

Here's where "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" went wrong. The second film made Capt. Jack Sparrow the pivot, and the rest of the characters revolved around him; the third one puts the onus on Orlando Bore and Keira Nod-off. The second film upped the slapstick action ante, and lowered the ponderous pirate politics that completely bog down the third film. And (spoiler warning), the third film kills the damn Kraken off-screen! What a disgrace! No big fight, no struggle to the death with a giant squid monster; it's like making the climax to "Jaws" a scene in which the shark suddenly goes belly-up like a sickly goldfish and everyone just heads to The Olive Garden to celebrate...

***

Finally, all of this talk about Allison Stokke, the engaging high-school pole vaulter who has become an Internet sensation for males ages 18-35, reminded me of one of the greatest quotes in the history of modern cinema, provided by master thespian Matthew McConaughey in director Richard Linklater's "Dazed and Confused" in 1993:

"That's what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older, they stay the same age."

Amen...


SportsFan MagazineGreg Wyshynski is the Features Editor for SportsFan Magazine in Washington, DC, and the Senior Sports Editor for The Connection Newspapers of Northern Virginia. His book is "Glow Pucks and 10-Cent Beer: The 101 Worst Ideas in Sports History." His columns appear every Saturday on Sports Central. You can e-mail Greg at [email protected].

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