Thursday, December 2, 2010

10 Things I'd Say to My Kid

Yes, I've missed eight installments of Cam's Hat Trick. But judging from a lack of raging comments, I'm going to guess you simply take your Red Wings reading elsewhere whenever I succumb to laziness or a broken computer. Either way, I'm going to try and get back on the horse even though I rarely get to see any games and make most of my judgments on highlights. It's a handicap you'll have to accept if you visit Egypt's Land.

So what'd I miss? Well, the Wings won six and lost two. They're awesome and way better than your team. Enough said. I'll have a Hat Trick for you tomorrow night following the Wings and Ducks game.

But you came here for new content. I've got that in spades.

Bill Simmons is a popular writer on ESPN. He's great; I like his style, but too often he focuses on basketball and Boston sports - two topics I really could care less about. Sometimes though, he melds his personal life with sports and his column really hits home for me. Wednesday's piece was just that.

He wrote about his five-year-old daughter's envy of an opposing team's uniforms, which were purple and gold - the colors of the Los Angeles Lakers and nemesis of Simmons' beloved Boston Celtics. When he asked her what she thought about green uniforms, she said she HATED green, emphasized with a grimace.

Now, they were just soccer uniforms in a youth league, but Simmons' quick mind immediately flew to the worst-case scenario.
When she's in the ninth grade, I can't have some senior showing up with a Gasol beard, a USC hat and an SUV shaking my hand and saying that they're "just going out for a bite to eat," only he's going to have that barely perceptible, "I've felt your daughter's boobs before, and I'm going to do it again tonight" smirk on his face, followed by me stabbing him to death and serving the mandatory sentence.
I can see myself in a similar situation, should my future daughter ever choose a man with Buckeye allegiances or a Crosby crush. My immediate thought was simple and emphatic:

Oh. My. Christ.

I can't let that happen. So, as Simmons points out in his final paragraphs, a powerful tool can be your parental influence when the child is young - even if that means lying.

So here are 10 little lies I'd tell my future child. With any luck, they'll help my son or daughter see red and think Red Wings, not Buckeyes.
  1. "Remember Mr. McGregor, the bad man from all the cute Peter Rabbit stories you love? He grows Buckeyes in his garden. Then all the little bunnies die."
  2. "Yep, an asteroid killed the dinosaurs. They say it came from Pittsburgh."
  3. "Of course it exists. The fire swamp's just over in Colorado. That place is rife with ROUSs."
  4. "Why did Scar kill Mufasa? Well, it's because he had a Notre-Dame education, honey."
  5. "The Blackhawks are the Indian tribe that started slavery."
  6. "Ohio State scientists captured the Berenstain Bears and did experiments on them."
  7. "Oh, don't cry! Captain Hook's not real. He won't come take you away. But Patrick Roy might."
  8. "Everyone in the world believed in Santa Claus until Eli Manning said something."
  9. "Snape? No, no no. You're thinking of Sidney Crosby. He's the one who killed Dumbledore."
  10. "Without Steve Yzerman, you'd never get any Christmas presents. Or birthdays."
Seems harmless enough to me. I see no future ramifications. Leave your own manipulative lies in the comments!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Cam's Hat Trick: Spilled.

Game #14: Red Wings 6, Oilers 2

One: I hate not having Center Ice. I love listening to games on the radio, but the NHL seems to have done away with that free feature too. Anyway, so I missed tonight's game and couldn't watch any web feeds because my internet was spotty. All you Wings Tweeters had me salivating for highlights, but I had to settle for this crap:

Hockey's not nearly as fun to watch with only little S, H and G bubbles that pop up after every shot, hit or goal. In fact, it's pretty lame, which totally sucks since this game sounded like it was a lot of fun to watch. What game isn't when the Wings score six goals? Wish I coulda seen it. Instead I had to choose between Yzerman's Wrath against the Capitals or the Bruins-Habs on the local station here. Blah. At least the NHL uploads their game highlights super quickly. Oh, wait. Thanks Gary.

Two: The Bulin Wall crumbles. The Wings were great, as far as I could tell from NHL on the Fly, but most of their goals were pretty weak. Fil's opener was awesome, but both of Cleary's and Homer's goals could have been stopped. All good shots and great, tough plays, but I have to think the score would have been different if a 37-year-old drunk Russian wasn't in goal for the Oil. But I'll take it for 10 wins in 14 games. This team is awesome. Built for June. I can taste it.

Three: This new NHL All-Star Game format idea is awesome. There's always been so much argument over East vs. West, America vs. World, etc. But this puts it up to the players. Name two captains and let them pick who they want on their team. Awesome. While I hate the idea of any Red Wings playing against each other - certainly a possibility - I'm pumped to see the pros pick sides like a street game. The only way they could make it better is if they all put their sticks in a big pile at center ice before the game and picked teams that way. Any bets on who gets picked last? Every on the team will be on All-Star, but I'd say the biggest off-ice assholes might get the shaft. Corey Perry? Chris Pronger? I'd love to see Rosby get the honor and watch his goofy grin fade away like Brady Quinn's on draft day in 2007. No matter what, it'll be awesome. Captain Nick takes Dats or Z first. Calling it now.

Next up: Red Wings vs. Avalanche, Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. I'm sick of hearing about the young, plucky Avs and how they're on the up and up. Let's lay waste to 'em at home and snag another couple points. Go Wings.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Four-in-One Super Trick!

Game #10: Red Wings 2, Flames 1
Game #11: Red Wings 3, Oilers 1
Game #12: Red Wings 4, Canucks 6
Game #13: Red Wings 3, Coyotes 2

: I know that picture is old, simple and has a ridiculously poor choice of background color, but I was Googling for Red Wings images and found that one. The Wings didn't even play the Ducks and don't until next month, but it made me laugh. Done. Anyway, so I've been away. And the Wings kept playing without me, the bastards. Seems as though they played pretty well though. This is a total waste of an observation. Wait! Lee Stempniak is a dick. Comment salvaged.

Two: Justin Abdelkader. The Afrogator is smart, he works hard and he has so much talent. I love having him on this team. He's a huge reason why the Wings won the first couple games against Calgary and Edmonton, and I think he'll continue to play instead of Hudler even if he's less talented. Hudler just doesn't bring it the same way Abby does. Not every night. Him and Helm, they just outwork you. They are perfect examples of heart over talent. Everyone wants a guy or two like that on their team. The Wings have a roster full of 'em.

Three: Yes, I'm going to be slightly lame and only give three things about four different games. From the highlights, the Wings looked great in the first two games. They played sound defense with some timely scoring and came out with a couple big wins. I would have bet a ton of money that Detroit would drop the Canucks game, seeing as it was their toughest game of the three in Canada and without any rest. If the Wings had enough gas in the third period, they would have swept the whole trip. Oh well. I'm just happy they scored four on Luongo. I don't care what time of year it is; that game alone proves to me he doesn't have what it takes to win the big one. And yes, I can make that kind of outlandish, broad statement about one of the league's best goaltenders despite not seeing a second of his play on Saturday. I stand by my point. He's a quieter, slightly more playoff-successful version of Nabokov. Sure, he won gold at the Olympics last year, but that competition is nothing like the NHL playoffs. One-and-done elimination compared to best-of-seven play. Not even similar. The Canucks are awesome as a team, but there's a reason they have lost to inferior Chicago teams both of the past two years: Luongo. And now that I've said all that he'll probably have 16 shutouts and win the Conn Smythe, judging from my wonderfully prescient Cup prediction based on dislike last year.

Next up: Red Wings vs. Oilers, Nov. 11 at 7:30 p.m. Do we really have to play these guys again? Fiiiine.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Cam's Hat Trick: Winner Winner

Game #9: Red Wings 5, Predators 2

One: Home unis. I absolutely loved the decision to bring back the home whites for this game. If it's up to the team every game, they should just buck the league trend/rules and play in their whites all the time. Not that I have anything against the gorgeous reds on the road, but there's just something awesome about the Wings in white. Reminds me of '97 and Stevie lifting that Cup for the city. Great memories.

Two: Central Division statement. So far, the Wings have dominated the Hawks and the Preds in their only divisional games this year. Those are supposedly the top two teams to challenge the Wings for the Central crown. I don't care if it's early; I love that the Wings are making a statement to their "rivals" and setting the tone for a great year. They have the best talent in the best division in the league. I'd say that puts them above everything else. Put on your white gloves, Cup people. Start engraving.

Three: Bad journalism. I just couldn't let this slide when I'm reporting on small town local news and some person out there gets to cover all the Red Wings games for the Associated Press. Here's the lead from tonight's story, found on
DETROIT -- Usually a set-up man, Pavel Datsyuk has suddenly turned into quite a goal scorer.

Datsyuk had two goals and an assist to lift the Detroit Red Wings to a 5-2 victory over the Nashville Predators on Saturday night.
Seriously? I know hockey recap writers love to use the one-liners to open up a very plain game story (because they're essentially the same format every single fucking time), but this is unacceptable. Pav is a set-up man, but he's also been one of the flashiest goal scorers in this league for several years. Apparently, this idiot didn't do his/her homework. Shame on you.

Next up: Red Wings at Flames, Nov. 3 at 9:30 p.m. This game, along with the following two games against the Oilers and Canucks, will make for a tricky situation. I'm spending next weekend at Penn State to visit a few friends and catch a football game, so it's possible three games could pass before I get a chance to Hat Trick them all. So expect either a bigger summary next Sunday night or perhaps a four-game combo post following their game against the Coyotes on Nov. 8. Either way, Go Wings.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Cam's Hat Trick: Ugly

Game #8: Red Wings 2, Coyotes 4
One: Goaltending. Ozzie was terrible, like seriously atrocious in the first. I assume he must have some sort of brain injury because that shorthanded goal to put the Coyotes up 3-0 in the first was the worst thing I've ever seen. To his credit, he played well in the second and third periods to keep the Wings in it and give them a chance to pull off the comeback. But his shockingly awful opening frame cost the Wings the game.

Two: Slow start. The Wings were lazy in the first and sorely missed Brian Rafalski on the blueline. Kindl was undressed by Vrbata on the first goal. Keith Yandle picked the corner on the second when the Wings took a stupid penalty. Then no one chased down Lauri Korpikoski (supposedly a man) on the third goal and he put a soft wrister past Ozzie's near pad. All of it could have been avoided with a little more focus in the first, and maybe the Wings could've won this game.

Three: I have nothing else to say. This game sucked. And Lauri Korpikoski needs to change his name. Or leave it for excessive verbal abuse. In fact, I kind of like that second option.

Next up: Red Wings vs. Predators, Oct. 30 at 7 p.m. Let's kick these southern bastards in the teeth. Never liked their existence and never will. Why even bother with hockey in Nashville? Sell 'em to Quebec. Go Wings.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Cam's Hat Trick: Just Ducky

Game #7: Red Wings 5, Ducks 4

One: Pavel Datsyuk. Need I say more?

Two: Deflections. An amazing one by Tomas Holmstrom tied the game at four and a couple great redirections by Zetterberg brought the Wings back into it. I admit that I don't watch many other NHL games and teams, but it would be hard for me to believe anyone else in the NHL is as talented at deflecting and redirecting the puck past goalies as the Wings. The tying tally by Homer through McIlwhatever's legs was awesome. I'll never understand how a guy with such soft touch with his back to the net has absolutely no awareness or skill when facing it.

Three: Standings. Since I didn't see the game and can't offer too much comment on it, I'll take a general look at where this win puts the Wings. First. Yeah. In the league. Only seven games in and they have five wins. Sounds pretty good to me. Pittsburgh and Chicago are there too, but they've played more games without any additional success. Believe me, I'm not getting ahead of myself. It's been seven games. But I've seen enough hockey to know what it means for the Wings to get off to a hot start and get the chemistry rolling. A good October bodes well for June.

Next up: Red Wings vs. Coyotes, Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. Somehow I thought the Wings were playing the Ducks twice in a row. Instead, they get the Coyotes for the second time this month.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cam's Hat Trick: Dousing the Flames.

Game #6: Red Wings 4, Flames 2

One: The Great Datsyuk. His magic was on full display again tonight, setting up Zetterberg's goal with an amazing backhand pass and then Lidstrom's powerplay tally with a ridiculous display of tic-tac-toe stickwork. It honestly looks like he's fooling around by himself on the ice sometimes, deftly swinging the puck around and tapping it over and under opponents' sticks just for fun. There's no other player like him. I refuse to believe there ever has been or ever will be. (By the way, I must have a copy of that shirt. It's fantastic. Combines my love of The Prestige and the hockey magician himself. Gift ideas anyone? I like the slate color.)

Two: Jiiiimmy Jimmy Jimmah. Have I mentioned how much I like this kid? He's an awesome goalie. He kept the Wings in the game for the first two periods and backstopped the team to a win in the third. I've been trained to have doubts about the Wings' goaltending, except for the magical year with Dom in 2002, and this year is no exception. But I'm coming around fast with Howard in goal. He really steps up and makes big saves when the team needs it. Plus he's an awesome guy. One of those goalies who would never lift the Cup and take it home with him if he had nothing to do with the team that won it. Right? Oh. Damn. Well I'd do it too if I had the chance.

Three: I'd love to say I had three separate thoughts about this game not about Pavel Datsyuk, but I didn't. My mind was slobbering over Dats pretty much the whole time. Well, except for Franzen's awesome goal in the third that he banked off Kiprusoff's head from no angle and the puck rolled down Kipper's shoulder. That was amazing. And Bertuzzi's clincher in the top corner. Sweet. But no, this spot will be for Detroit commercials. I don't live in the area, so I can't usually watch the Wings on FSN-Detroit. But with Center Ice being free for the month of October, I caught the game on God's favorite channel and was able to watch many Michigan commercials. The Pure Michigan ad with Stevie Y chomping on an apple, the new Dr. Rahmani Eye Doctor spot with Lidstrom and my personal favorite: the Red Wings team commercial with Babcock, Osgood, Franzen, and Datsyuk. Hilarious. Almost makes me want to pony up the cash to watch Center Ice and FSN-Detroit all year long.

Next up: Red Wings vs. Ducks, Oct. 23 at 7 p.m. I won't be watching, but I'll have the Hat Trick up by Sunday night once again. This is the second of three match-ups the Wings have against the Ducks this month. Odd scheduling, but I love to hate the Ducks. Let's do it.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Cam's Hat Trick: Badgerbadgerbadgers

Game #5: Red Wings 2, Coyotes 1

One: Kronwall. I only saw the highlights, but if the Wings didn't score in the five-minute overtime period with TWO four-on-three powerplays they deserved to be docked a few points in the standings. Thankfully, some great passing and a nice shot by Kronner ended the game.

Two: Jimmy Howard. The kid's still playing great to start the year. Except for a few softies to the Avalanche, I'm starting to come around to the idea that this guy from Maine is going to be Detroit's starting goalie and the next one to win a Cup for the franchise. His talent is real. I can't wait for him to prove it in April, May and June.

Three: Wisconsin football! Yes, this is a Red Wings recap. No, this is not a Red Wings comment. But I didn't see the Wings game so I have little to say about it, and everyone wins when Ohio State loses. That's not even my rule; it's the word of the Lord.

Next up: Red Wings vs. Flames, Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. Sweet? It's hard to get excited for the Flames. Oh well. Go Wings!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Latres on the menjay. What did I just say?

A good journalist must have balance. The job requires writing ability, curiosity, sharp judgment, a quick mind, and an affinity for extra-strength coffee. Black.

Many of those things are picked up or learned in school. Professors correct and guide writing styles, help develop a student's inquiring mind and conduct classes at 8 a.m. (thus planting an early addiction to life's perky poision).

But one thing they don't teach you -- and it's an essential part of a journalist's daily work -- is the ability to answer, talk and leave messages on the telephone.

You have to pick that up talent on your own. And most of the time, the only way to get better is to fuck it up royally. Over and over and over again.

Think about the last time you called someone you've never met, or even someone you barely know. Maybe it's your friend's friend selling you his old couch for cheap or a cute girl whose number you snagged over drinks on a rainy Saturday. No matter who it is, the conversation is awkward.

Remember "I Love You, Man"? Paul Rudd plays an graceless character that seems exaggerated, but he's more normal than you think. Here's his first phone message to Jason Segel, the man behind his budding bromance.

Reporters make those kinds of calls and leave those kinds of messages anywhere from two to ten times for every one of the ten to twenty stories they write per week. It's a recipe for disaster.

Now, any journalist who's been at the job for more than an hour knows it's not that extreme. But it can be close. I've had bad days where I mumble my name into complete ambiguity, lose my line of thinking for five full seconds of silence or sound just as ridiculous as Rudd when he ends his message.

And it doesn't help that the people you're calling generally don't want to call you back. It interrupts their day, and reporters make people skittish. The second they hear "Hi, my name is Cameron Kittle and I'm a reporter with the Nashua Telegraph," their mind jumps to a grouchy, inconsiderate bulldog whose only goal in life is to make fun of your age and misquote you with libelous remarks. Some nerve he's got, calling me at three in the afternoon with questions about the recent heat wave...

So, not only is it your responsibility to try and avoid awkwardness, but you have to actually be genuinely interested enough in their collection of 400 dolls to make them like you and return your call. You also have to be quick to summarize your point, slow to relay your contact information and clear to enunciate properly.

This is all if the call goes smoothly. But shit goes haywire in a newsroom more often than not, and you can end up dialing one person and be transferred to four others in a single call. And don't expect any of the transfer-senders to inform the transfer-receivers (that would make way too much sense), so you'll have to repeat what you just said multiple times while your fellow employees stifle laughter as you're yanked around again and again.

It might sound like a minefield for rookies only, but it can be even worse when seasoned veterans switch jobs. Take the young guy who sits behind me for example. He worked in Masschusetts for a few years, just long enough to render his brain nearly incapable of improvisation. Nearly a month into the new job, I could still hear him fumbling his words at the end of a message:

"...and if you could give me a call back that'd be great. Once again this is Jake Berry at the Nashua Telegraph, and my number is 508-862--oh that's not right. I'm sorry..*awkward laughs*.. I'm still new. The number here is...*shuffling papers*...I'm sorry. You can reach me at 603-594-4108. Hope to hear from you!"

Annnd scene. Ouch. Maybe it doesn't sound that bad to you, but an eagle-eye newsroom camera would show every reporter seize up in the shoulders and cringe at Jake's struggle. But it's not his fault; it's a problem with routine.

Reporters leave so many messages and say their phone numbers so many times, it becomes cemented in the brain. Changing that after a few years would be like adding digits to your social security number and trying to say it backwards on the first try.

It might sound easy, but phone calls can sometimes be a reporter's biggest hurdle. Stumble out of the gate and you might be looking at a bad story, but master the art and you could see your byline in the New York Times. Of course, you'll still need all that writing and interviewing and coffee stuff, too.

Cam's Hat Trick: Blech. That was ugly.

Game #4: Red Wings 1, Stars 4

One: Turnovers. The Red Wings looked sloppy in every period, making bad passes and not controlling the puck. No one was exempt; even Captain Nick made a no-look pass in the first that was absurdly stupid and almost turned into a goal. I've watched the Wings for many years, and it's pretty rare when they put together a full 60-minute stinker like they did here. Just a lack of concentration all around. Oh, and Ozzie sucked.

Two: Posts. Datsyuk made a great move and dangled one off the crossbar in the first that would have tied the game, and Hudler rang another off the bar in the second. If both those shots go the Wings' way, I think it's a whole different game. It just seemed like the team couldn't generate any momentum, and an early goal before the Stars put the game away would have helped keep them in it.

Three: Road announcers. I don't live in the Detroit area, so I had to watch this game on NHL Network via FSN Southwest. I won't bother to look up the names of the idiots in charge of the play-by-play, but man, they were bad. Whether it was describing a player's actions as "corrupt" when he was called for a penalty or lauding Kari Lehtonen's play when he was, at best, a combination of awful and lucky, these Dallas guys had no clue what they were talking about. Play-by-play is a tough gig, so I can't say I'd do much better on the spot. But I'd venture to say I knew more about hockey when I was 10 years old than these guys do now.

Next up: Red Wings at Coyotes, Oct. 16 at 9 p.m. Rematch of last year's playoff series. Should be a good one. I won't be watching because I'm going to watch Michigan play UNH in what should be an awesome college hockey game, but I'll have the Hat Trick up by Sunday night. Go Wings!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Cam's Hat Trick: I hate you, Brandon Yip

Game #3: Red Wings 4, Avalanche 5

One: Kirk Maltby. Yep, the guy didn't play in this game. But for any longtime Red Wings fan, you know he deserves some recognition on the night he finally hangs up his skates. He retired this afternoon to take a scouting job with the team instead of play another year mostly in the minors. It's too bad, but he's just not good enough to make the roster anymore. The grinders made in his image are younger, faster, better. But that doesn't mean we don't all remember that Sports Illustrated cover in 1997, that back-and-forth goal with Joey Kocur against Philly in those '97 Finals, or the countless penalties he killed. It's sad to see him retire, but it was time. Thanks for everything, Malts. You were awesome.

Two: Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. These guys are fucking magic together. Prepare for me to slobber over them way too many times this season. Whenever they're on the ice I'm ready for a goal. Their beauty in the second period was too easy. There's no other duo in the NHL that is as in sync as the Euro Twins. If Hank wasn't married to ungodly gorgeous Emma Andersson and Dats wasn't with his wife, whoever she is, I swear these two would be as good together as George and Mary Bailey.

Three: Doug Janik. Ugh. Please go away. Damn you, Rafalski's knee. I don't know if I can stand extended time with this guy on the ice. It's like Lilja, but worse.

Next up: Red Wings at Stars, Oct. 14 at 8:30 p.m. This game is on NHL Network, which makes me happy because that makes two nights this week Red Wing nights.

On a side note, I love watching a sport that gets over in two and a half hours with limited commercials. Not any of this all-afternoon football junk or forever-and-a-day playoff baseball. Exactly why hockey is my favorite.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Cam's Hat Trick: Get used to it, Chicago

Game #2: Red Wings 3, Blackhawks 2

One: Second-line scoring. Valtteri Filppula had two goals and Goon Bertuzzi had another as the Wings flew past the Hawks to ruin their opening night and their Stanley Cup banner ceremony. Filppula needs to step up and have a productive, healthy year to keep the Wings in it until the end and a game like this is a good start. His winner was a fluky one, but I'll take it. Nice way to jump on Chicago early in the season and grab two quick wins on opening weekend.

Two: Oh, Marty Turco. I loved you so much as the championship-winning goalie for the Michigan Wolverines back in their late-90s glory days and I was able to not hate you on the Stars, but this new deal you've got with the Hawks has soured me. Well, in fact it's made me very happy in that you can't stop any piece of black rubber sent from the stick of a Red Wings player (Turco is something like 1-2,000 against the Wings all-time), but I'm conflicted in that it makes me a teensy bit sad to see you suffer. But Wings over Wolverines, so I must root for your demise. Thank you for signing with the Blackhawks. The whole Wings faithful is forever grateful.

Three: Bittersweet Chicagoans. I love that the Wings ruined their home opener and the banner raising ceremony with a hard-fought victory. Enjoy that banner while you can, Hawks fans. You're not getting another this year. I'm not going to say it'll be another 49 years, but you have nothing close to what it takes to repeat in this league. Here starts your slow painful ride back to second place in the Central, where you belong.

Next up: Red Wings vs. Avalanche, Oct. 12 at 7 p.m. Back to the old rivalry. Another good one on tap and hopefully the first game of the season that I'll get to watch live. Let's get Jimmy another shutout! Yes, I realize I just jinxed it and the Avs will probably score a minute in, but whatever. Go Wings.

Friday, October 8, 2010

New Wings, New Ways

It's been a while since the Detroit Red Wings have held a strong presence on this blog, and that just doesn't sit well with me.

See, I have two followings of this blog (both of which are astronomically small): One that loves the Red Wings and wants to read endless words about their awesomeness, and one that cares nothing about the Red Wings but happens to like me as a person and wants to read my writing or what's going on in my life.

So, I've always tried to do a little of both to keep both camps happy (again, these camps barely need to split a single tent) but recently, I've strayed away from the Red Wings stuff. I don't put as much effort into writing about them as I used to, and my posts often come out quite inferior to much of the A2Ys and Triple Dekes and Snipe Snipe, Dangle Dangles of the Wings blogosphere.

I have always wanted to do something consistent throughout the season, but time commitments and laziness have always thrown a wrench into my plans. This year though, I think I have it.

Cam's Hat Trick.

It will be short, it will be sweet, it will follow every Red Wings game. And it won't affect how much I blog about other subjects, although that doesn't say a whole lot. Anyway, I'll still be trying to write about both.

Now, I can't see into the future and promise that I will hit all 82 regular season games, but I'm going to try. So if you want some quick thoughts, quirky observations or completely biased reviews, I will have three following each game. Even on nights when I can't watch, I'll bring you a fresh edition of Cam's Hat Trick based on what I read and saw on the highlight reels.

That's all I will promise for now, as the idea just came to me. It's really just a watered down version of the Triple Deke's game recaps It's going to be awesome. And with that, here we go:

Game #1: Red Wings 4, Ducks 0

One: Pavel Datsyuk getting in a fight with Corey Perry was awesome. My favorite player holding his own against one of my least favorite players in the league...just beautiful to watch. I still can't believe The Great Datsyuk finally decided to drop the gloves and I wasn't there to catch it live. But I watched it many times on replay, and I'm glad to see Dats got some punches in. The Dangle Master also had a great deflection goal and an assist before he completed the Gordie Howe Hat Trick with this fight in the second period. It's an awesome way to start the season, and it gets him the first nod in the opening edition of Cam's Hat Trick.

Two: Mike Modano scores a goal on his first shot as a Wing. A fluttering puck that floated past Jonas Hiller isn't anything to get excited about, but his presence was clearly felt. The guy is excited, the guy is motivated, the guy looks fuckin' good in red. I've been on the Mo2Motown bandwagon since the first whisper rumors emerged, and I'm so psyched to see one of my favorite former non-Wings finishing his career with the greatest franchise in the world. Very happy to see he had a good game and picked up his first goal tonight.

Three: Jimmy Howard stopped every puck that came his way and kicked off his sophomore season with a great effort. Sure, it was only 21 shots and it was the Ducks, but he showed no jitters and made every play he had to make. I really like this young kid, even if he's a former Maine Black Bear. This strong opening win will be good for his confidence and I hope he can keep it going tomorrow night against the hated 'Hawks. Speaking of which...

Next up: Red Wings at Blackhawks, Oct. 9. at 8:30 p.m. We have to watch those bastards raise their Cup banner, but hopefully we can spoil their fun and take another step toward reclaiming the division crown.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Did the little piggy really cry wee wee wee all the way home?

Three years ago, the Educational Farm at Joppa Hill thrived. It reported $105,000 in revenue in 2007, and executive director Lin L’Heureux said she even received donation checks by mail.

But since the recession hit, the farm has fallen. No sign was more depressing than the most recent anonymous donation: a bag of old hamburger buns left on L’Heureux’s doorstep last week.

“Things are worse than they’ve ever been since I’ve been here,” L’Heureux said, who started working at the Educational Farm when Bedford bought the land about five years ago. The farm is a nonprofit organization and has been a huge part of the community since it started providing summer farm camps for kids.

Mark Hayner, treasurer for the farm, said the organization has only $2,300 available in the bank, and it takes at least $4,000 to cover a single month of the 35-acre farm’s operating costs.

All current bills have been paid, he said Monday, but the farm could end the year with a $12,000 deficit and only $60,000 in total revenue – a 43 percent drop since 2007.

“We can’t spend more money than we bring in,” Hayner said, “but we still have costs that we can’t eliminate.”

The farm’s expenses include heat for the animals, electricity to run the milking equipment, insurance for the animals, buildings and payroll for the farm’s only employee, L’Heureux, who gets paid for 28 hours each week but says she logs nearly 60.

L’Heureux said it would be a “tragedy” if the farm were forced to close. Hayner said the possibility is real.

“We have a lot of dedicated people who love the farm, but we’re all in a little bit of denial,” Hayner said. “As the person responsible for the finances, I have to let them know the situation is dire.”

L’Heureux hopes one of the farm’s big fundraisers, the Fall Fair, on Sept. 26, will delay the farm’s concerns for a few weeks, but the reality of the problem is harsh: There’s just not enough income coming in or enough money in the bank to keep the farm going as it stands now.

“The things that we would need to make a financial plan come to life require capital investments that we don’t currently have,” Hayner said.

He said the majority of the farm’s revenue comes from its summer camp, where kids ages 4-11 come for a week and get hands-on experiences while learning about farming, ecology, conservation and veterinary care.

But as enrollment numbers, grants and donations all continue to dwindle in the tough economic conditions, Hayner and L’Heureux aren’t sure where to turn for help.

Hayner said in the past, the Educational Farm has used their good relationship with their creditors as an advantage.

“They’ve allowed us to float in the winter the past couple of years when we don’t have any income,” he said. “We tell them we’ll repay our debt in the springtime, and they’ve allowed us to do that.

“But we can’t keep living on the good graces of our creditors. We need to find places for the animals. We need to have an exit plan.”

The farm’s board of directors met Sept. 2 with members of the community to develop ideas on how the farm could be saved, but Hayner said even the best ideas won’t create quick cash flow. He said the group of Bedford High School students who volunteered to start a club connected to the farm could help bring in more money through fundraisers or public exposure.

“People start to recognize the value of things when it’s the young people who start bringing it to light,” he said.

Hayner mentioned that there are other ideas to generate additional income, including selling ice cream at the farm, but he said the farm doesn’t have the money to buy new equipment or services to make those ideas tangible.

Right now, the farm’s only source of income in the winter is its raw milk program, which L’Heureux said offers some relief. The farm sells about 35 gallons a week to local customers, but sometimes those numbers can drop even further if the cows don’t produce enough milk or if the loyal customers don’t return every week. Horseback riding lessons also run throughout the fall until the ground freezes for winter.

“It’s a treasure,” said Pelham volunteer Jessica Edwards. “Kids don’t see cows, sheep and horses on a regular basis. It’s educational to see conservation in action.”

L’Heureux said the farm still needs help every day and budgets 14 volunteer shifts per week for people who come before or after work to feed the animals or milk the cows.

At the farm, there are horses, goats, sheep, cows, chickens and a 1,000-pound pig named China that was adopted after spending much of his young life trapped in a closet at a Boston-area Chinese restaurant.

She said a handful of the dedicated volunteers are developmentally disabled adults, including a man named Ray who visits regularly to clean out the chicken coops. She said working on the farm can be a huge help for adults who can’t hold a regular job due to their disability.

“It gives them an opportunity to get good exercise while working outside in the fresh air and immediate gratification because when you leave, you can see what you’ve done to help these animals,” L’Heureux said.

She said the Educational Farm at Joppa Hill offers something that locals can’t find in any of the surrounding towns.

“There are all sorts of camps,” L’Heureux said, “but not a lot of farm camps. The whole idea of playing outside is gone.”

Last Thursday, Sarah Ray, 4, and her sister Ana, 2, visited the farm with their nanny and happily fed the goats and cows. Victoria Plumpton, 26, of Manchester, watches over the two sisters and often brings them to the farm on Thursdays because the young girls always ask to go.

“The girls love to come here,” Plumpton said. “I think it would be a big loss if Joppa Hill was gone.”

L’Heureux said she really has no idea how to save the farm. She said it comes down to help from the community and the economy. If it turns around, she could see that moldy bag of hamburger buns transform back into donation checks. If not, the outlook remains bleak.

“If we don’t get any help, the farm will continue to deteriorate,” L’Heureux said. “The animals would all have to be placed in other farms. It would be really sad."

Story can also be found on the Telegraph website, here.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Planet Fitness: A Grammar-Free Zone

I joined Planet Fitness two months ago. It's been a great place to run and work out after my day shift, and even during the busiest times I have no trouble finding an open treadmill. It only costs a pocket of change per day, and I get free haircuts to boot from the stylist on staff. Yes, you read that right. I get free haircuts from my gym. I could even look like the Danish Danny Zuko over here if I asked for it.

Overall, it's been a great experience. The best I could ask for out of a gym. It's open all day and all night from Monday to Friday and has reasonable hours on the weekends.

But there's one tiny thing that has been driving me crazy for weeks now, and I finally decided to write about it.

See, Planet Fitness has this idea in mind where anyone in the world can come to their gyms. They attract the sharks that bite through a bench press and the whales who come up for air walking two on the treadmill.

It's an honorable venture. It works, too. I like going to a gym where most people are there to stay healthy or lose a few pounds. It's a positive atmosphere. And their motto reflects that:

Planet Fitness, the Judgement Free Zone.

They even copyrighted the phrase. (Probably because if you say judgement-free zone, it's supposed to have a dash because judgement-free is acting as a compound adjective, and they don't want to deal with the mess of proper grammar hence their own copyrighted version, the bastards).

And part of that judgement-free zone is trying to keep the body builders quiet and respectful. The big guys who GTL like (insert Guido name here) are still welcome at Planet Fitness, but only if they don't grunt, heave their weights to the floor or "judge" others.

If they do, an alarm goes off. There are sensors in the floor and supposedly something else that picks up on excessive noise. The alarm is a loud wavy noise, sort of like what you hear at some hockey rinks when a period ends.

And Planet Fitness has their own name for it: the lunk alarm.

But that's not what irks me. They can have whatever gimmicky noises they want while I'm there; I'm blastin' Empire State of Mind over and over again. I'm jammin' out mahn, with mah bass.

No, my problem is the definition for their made-up word and the ridiculous sentence they have beneath it.

As you can see from the photo, it's not at all Planet Fitness locations, but here's what it says at the one in Nashua:

Lunk (lunk) n. [slang]: one who grunts, drops weights or judges.

Then, in italics below:

[Ricky is slamming his weights, wearing a body building tank top and drinking out of a gallon water jug...what a lunk!]

This single sentence drives me crazy. First, as a minor aside, these Planet Fitness people have no fucking clue how to use a compound adjective. Body-building tank top. Seriously, I don't think even a full season of Schoolhouse Rock would save them. The CEO needs to take a lesson from my girlfriend and hire an English major on staff.

Second, read the sentence again. To me, it sounds like Ricky is just your average guy with a shitty name who likes to wear tank tops and has a dehydration problem. And maybe he likes to use the word slammin'. I see no evidence of grunting, dropping weights or judging.

If Planet Fitness is going to make up their funny-sounding slang words [note the correct use of the compound adjective] with definitions, they should at least be able to use them in a sentence correctly. All they're showing me with this line about Ricky is their own prejudice against gym rats and that they'd be really bad as National Spelling Bee judges.

Planet Fitness CEO: OK Shoshana, this is for the championship. Your word is, Hebrew.

Little Shoshana: Can I have the definition please?

Planet Fitness CEO: A member of the Semitic peoples inhabiting ancient Palestine and claiming descent from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Little Shoshana: Can you use it in a sentence please?

Planet Fitness CEO: That man over there counting his money is wearing a funny hat and has a hook nose...what a Hebrew!

Little Shoshana: F*** you.

And they have the nerve to call this place a judgement-free zone.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Now Skeeter, he ain't hurting nobody...

As a journalist, my emotions climb high and sink low on a daily basis. Some days I'll be assigned a happy little event with happy people and happy friends and all sorts of sources who just can't wait to talk to me (perfect example).

But today was not one of those days.

Today I covered my first murder trial. Well, I covered the arraignment that will eventually lead to a trial, but you get the idea.

The story is that yesterday, a 19-year-old guy stabbed a 21-year-old guy who was later found dead on the scene. Pretty big news for Nashua, certainly. And I was the lucky one picked to cover his subsequent arraignment this morning when the usual morning cops reporter had an ill-timed dentist appointment.

So I woke up before 7, scooped up a hearty bowl of Wheaties and made my down to the courthouse. And if Nashua is any indication, the smaller courts of America are understaffed, overworked and cranky. They zip through arraignments and have little sympathy for people who show up late or want to give "their side of the story." I can't imagine being a clerk at one of these places right now. No wonder they want reporters to drive down to the courthouse to make copies of a document instead of finding it for them and reading the information over the phone.

The arraignments start at 8:15 sharp. Amidst all the craziness to find the right courtroom, meet up with my photographer and figure out who I should be talking to, I manage to find the father of the accused. He doesn't want to talk to me, but he's not angry. He manages to squeak out a offering of condolence to the victim's family but couldn't comment on more. His sullen face looked like he'd been up all night, worried for his son and terrified for his future.

I moved into the courtroom to wait for the judge. My photographer and I moved up to the front row and sat next to a couple guys from WMUR. We heard whispers in the pew behind us. I turned around slightly and began to speak with the man behind me. He turned out to be the victim's best friend since the two were five years old. The victim was this guy's best man at his wedding. He couldn't say much either, but his face told the story. Shocked, angry, depressed. Completely overcome with emotion. He did an amazing job to stay composed, but the three girls he sat with were in tears for much of the two hours I sat there.

I asked how old this guy was. He said 22. I'm 22. Same age, except this guy just found out 12 hours ago that the best friend he's ever known was murdered. I can't begin to explain what a chilling realization that was.

Our conversation came to a slow stop. There was no "See ya later," no "Thanks, have a good one." It just came to an eventual end. He told me what he could and how he was feeling, but after that the words dissipated.

Arraignment after arraignment came through. A woman who didn't speak English pleading for something. A young guy and a costly speeding ticket. Two women fighting for a restraining order against the other. One by one for at least an hour.

I looked to my left. The father, the guy I spoke to outside for a moment, had his head on his hands, resting against the pew in front of him. Totally lost. The only expression that comes to mind is sheer disbelief. Shock and awe that the kid brought out in handcuffs with his.

This is all pure observation. The room is silent, save for a few sobs and sniffles from the family behind us. When the accused appears through the doorway and walks to his seat, there's no dramatic hush or shouts of fury. There's not much sound at all. The scuffling of feet and the clink of metal. A photographer's shutter cl-cl-click-clicking away. He doesn't say anything. Just a whip of his long black hair and a stone cold look that hints he might not have had much sleep this night.

The two sides in suits say very little. No details are released of the night's events. The only question here is what bail to set. And, since a court so small cannot set a bail so big, the judge lands on "held without." A probable cause hearing is scheduled for Sept. 1. The court sealed the affidavit and thus kept all important details from surfacing until the matter goes to trial.

Done. Next case. Just like that.

No one else could muster the energy to fling a few words at me and trust that I'd protect them, so I went on my way. Back to the newsroom, sinking low on a Tuesday of mixed emotions. But as the job has taught me already, tomorrow's a new day and today's behind me. Only thing to do from here is climb.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Snap, Crackle, You're Dead.

I'm not the first to complain about this, but after a single experience with it I knew I had a story to tell.

It started with a health kick at the grocery store. None of my favorite Double Stuf Oreos, no candy, no sweets of any kind (I'm not ridding the delights from my diet, just trying to stop paying for them). So I picked out some fruit, a box of Kashi cereal and filled my cart with a boatload of goodies. At some point in the trip, I made my way down the chips aisle for some Chex Mix.

Now, Doritos were the tasty choice, but I felt like something else. I wanted something crunchy and delicious but with some sort of health tinge to it. Hello Peppercorn Ranch Sun Chips. Bingo. Thirty percent less fat than regular potato chips was all the false advertising I needed to hear. But when I reached for them, a thunderstorm erupted throughout the store.

The deafening, crackling sound shook my very core. What in God's name could make such a horrible sound?

A bag. Yes, a bag for potato chips. That's the root of the sound that popped my eardrums, rattled dentures at the nearby IHOP and probably killed six kids in Asia somehow. Seriously, listen to it:

No exaggeration, I would rather have a South African follow me around with a Vuvuzela all day than grab a new bag of Sun Chips. The sound is ridiculous. It's even worse in person. I thought people were freaking out way too much about it when the bag first emerged, but now that my left ear is useless I can empathize.

The saddest part is that I still bought the chips. I brushed off my first grab-and-touch as an opening bang to scare away little kids. But when I sat on the couch and gripped the bag with both hands to tear open the top and consume the Peppery Ranch goodness, I swear to God I could hear Liam Neeson in his beard yelling, "RE-LEASE THE CRACKLE!" Before I knew it, I was naked on the couch with singed hair and clothes scattered everywhere. My apartment looks like Crater Lake Park without the water.* (UPDATE: That picture apparently isn't Oregon's Crater Lake. This is. I think.)

It's scary how loud the bag is. It might be even scarier that my last two topics of writing have been Legos and Sun Chips. But I guess they're not all winners.

*I've never been to Crater Lake Park. I've heard it's nice.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The star himself.

On the mound throwin' heat against Portland on Wednesday. Jeff threw 79 pitches over seven scoreless innings, scattered three hits, struck out eight, walked one, and got the win. What a performance. Mobbed by reporters after the game and smashed with a shaving cream pie in the face. Great to see him do so well. Way to go bud, keep it up.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I'm thinking about getting metal legs...

A survey came out and said Legos was the most popular toy ever made. And, since I was a master of Legos as a child, I thought I would point out how pathetic this survey actually was.

Now, I will not argue with the winning choice. Legos are awesome. You can build all sorts of shit with them and, as you can see from the graph here, you don't always have to follow the rules of construction.

The different kits you can buy allow kids to build ships, castles, cars, boats, alien planets, and whatever else they can imagine. The people who invented this little toy not only saw a financial opportunity, but the potential for giving kids a toy that encourages creativity and do-it-yourself skills.

The problem I have with this survey is that the group surveyed was 20-40 year olds.

I guess I understand why they chose this particular group, and that's to figure out the best toy including both the old and the new. People around age 20, like me, knew exactly what it was like to grow up playing with traditional toys like Legos but also played with modern toys like Gameboys. Adults up to the age of 40 most likely played with some sort of primitive modern toy and have a good grasp of the older toys. So, in theory, this group of 3,000 adults seems like a good choice.

But I would argue that the headline claiming Lego as the top toy in the world is completely misleading.

Kids don't play with Legos anymore. At least not like they used to. From 2003-2005, the Lego Group faced deficits up to $200 million and laid off thousands of workers in Europe. The toy has been climbing again in recent years, but thanks mostly to a booming video game franchise and the construction of popular LegoLand amusement parks.

So, in my opinion, Legos is no longer the most popular toy among kids today. It was, but has since been replaced by video games and more modern technology. And if you've been wondering why the hell I would Wikipedia the Lego Group or do any sort of research on something as trivial as fucking toys, here is your answer:

Video games have sapped so much life of out today's youth that I almost wish I never had them in the first place. I've been sitting on this idea for a while now, watching my roommate spend hours in his room on his XBox 360, but the deceiving Lego survey finally exploded the opinion out of me.

I really can't stand them anymore. The only games I would play and actually enjoy right now are of the sports variety, and even then I get completely bored after half an hour of playtime. I feel like every button I press kills a brain cell. Seriously. I so much more inclined to go outside, pick up a book, relax with some music, or even build some Legos, if it were more age appropriate.

I mean just look at the options kids have now:
If I had the tools to build my own basketball court with Legos at age 10, and the little men had springy footholds with which to actually shoot a tiny basketball toward my toy hoop, I would've gone fucking nuts.

Cam, age 10: "You're telling me I can spend five hours of my afternoon trying to get a tiny plastic ball into a tiny plastic hoop by flicking little plastic men over and over and over again? Talk about best day EVER!"

Seriously, you couldn't drag me away from something like that. I'd be occupied for days. But instead, children today are too caught up with graphics and special moves and other things that do nothing but cause early-onset carpal tunnel.

These kids are at the prime stages for developing their minds and so many of them are wasting their time, and a ridiculous amount of money, on video games.

I don't think games should be banned, but they need to be controlled. One of the reasons I think I care so little about them today is because my parents imposed limits: one hour a day. That's more than enough time to spend melting your brain.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Just living the dream

At age 22, Jeff Locke is 1-0 with a 1.96 ERA in four starts with the Altoona Curve, the double-A affiliate of Major League Baseball's Pittsburgh Pirates. He's got 22 strikeouts and has allowed just four walks in 23 innings pitched. He's a professional baseball player, and he's on the rise. He's even got his own signed baseball cards.

But that's August 2010. I met Jeff in January 1997.

I plopped down between him and Brant Sanborn and took my seat at one of those old brown desks with the metal cubby underneath. I had just moved to New Hampshire from Michigan and was jumping into Mrs. Garland's third-grade class halfway through the year. I left many friends behind at Tonda Elementary in Canton, and I was nervous about my first day at John Fuller.

But at that beat-up desk in the back of the room, Jeff and Brant became my first friends.

I remember little of the rest of that third-grade year, but memories of Jeff pop up all over from the rest of elementary school. And many of them are tied to baseball.

He was the star pitcher on the Royals in little league. I remember one game where our North Conway Rotary team played against him, and on the bench we were cheering and slappin' fives when someone foul tipped one of his pitches. I remember when he hit 60-plus on the radar gun the summer after fourth grade. I'd never seen anything move that fast.

And he wasn't just the best pitcher anywhere, he was the best batter too. When he came over to my house for home-run derby contests in the driveway, he had his own imaginary fence to clear. It was twice as far back as mine, and he still whooped my ass by double digits.

I was too young to understand the drive and the passion for the game he loved. I felt the same passion, but it was spread out. I loved hockey most, but I also loved golf and football and tennis and basketball and baseball. I loved everything in competition.

And I was always good at sports, some days even great. I had a rocket slapshot by my high school years. I could always make incredible trick shots in basketball or connect on a hot serve for an ace down the T in tennis. I can still play golf well and I like to toss the pigskin with my friends. I was never the kid picked last. I've always been a natural athlete, but I never had the patience to hone my raw talent.

Not like Jeff did.

Jeff played baseball. He didn't play anything else. He could throw a football further than anyone in my grade, but he never tried out for quarterback. He could sink foul shot after foul shot, but he never joined the basketball team. He had the same raw talent and athletic ability I did, the same as so many of my friends. But he had discipline. He'd play a pickup game of anything, but in competition, it was all baseball.

He worked at it. He threw hundreds of pitches on hot summer days. He baked in the sun and stayed on the mound until it fell dark. He would even pitch frozen cow pies and snowballs whenever I visited his house in the winter. I remember because one of them hit me square in the nuts. You'd remember something like that too if you caught a Locke fastball to the groin.

Jeff lived and loved baseball. He fought for his right to play the game after high school while so many of us were busy dreaming about it on the couch at home.

And that's why he made it. All the hours of practice, all the time spent on that mound. That's the effort it takes to be a professional athlete. My parents told me that, too. They didn't shove it down my throat, but I remember my dad telling me to spend more hours at the driving range in high school to get better, and I refused. I didn't want to practice. It wasn't as much fun as playing the course and hoping to get better, seeing sparks of brilliance and assuming they'd soon become the norm. But it takes buckets of balls and swing after swing to make the PGA Tour. And if you don't put in the time, if you don't put in the effort, you won't make it. It's that simple.

I don't write this to bemoan my failures as an athlete, or to whine about my efforts to make a career writing about sports ever since playing them for a living has become a virtual impossibility. No, I write because I'm proud to call him my friend.

And not because he's on his way to millions. Not because I could claim to know a pro athlete. I'm proud because I know he's earned it every step of the way. I'm proud because after he was drafted in 2006 and received an eye-popping $675,000 signing bonus, he bought his Mom a new refrigerator. I'm proud because I know all of this couldn't happen to a nicer kid.

I remember back in sixth grade, the two of us would joke that when Jeff made it to the majors, I'd be his agent. I had the math background and the sports passion, and he had the dream. It didn't work out that way, but I like to think someday I'll walk down from the press box, head into the locker room, pull out my tape recorder, and see the same smiling kid meet the press after a perfect game. I already know exactly what I'd say.

"Hey Jeff. How's it feel to be livin' the dream?"

(Jeff showed me this song in middle school. Still one of my favorites to this day. Weird video though.)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Will you take Z as your lawfully wedded husband?

I would. He hails from Sweden, plays for the Red Wings, grows an incredible beard, and sleeps next to Emma Andersson. Hell, I'd marry into that family just for the last name. Cameron McGinnis Zetterberg. I can hear the ladies swooning already.

But just for a second, forget his homeland, his career and his fantastic facial hair. The man proved Thursday that he has the temerity of real-life James Bond. And if you think you can match such boldness, ask yourself this question:

Could you pull this look off on your wedding day?

Here's the happy couple, Zetterberg and Andersson, during their pre-wedding ceremonies in Sweden. They said it was a joke on tradition, and all 120 wedding guests were given the mandatory beachwear right as they arrived on shore. Surprise!

You can see fellow Red Wings Pavel Datsuk (far left with the strawberry-shaped head), Valtteri Filppula, Johan Franzen, Nicklas Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall, Tomas Holmstrom, and a few others in the picture if you look hard enough.

When I first saw these photos, I couldn't help but laugh.
The wedding album is going to look like a Where's Waldo book. Or a curtain call for the cast of O Brother Where Art Thou. The outfits are ridiculous. At least for women, it's basically a dress turned swimsuit. But it's hard for guys to pull off the onesie look past age seven. Even the most trendy European men turn this thing down before they mousse their hair and make for the club.

But that's part of the reason I love it. Zetterberg and his new wife went totally off the reservation. Sure, maybe yesterday they married in a church in proper suits and dresses like everyone else in the world, but they called one hell of an audible to kick off what I'm sure was an amazing weekend. I would have loved to be there, even though I don't speak any Swedish and every conversation would probably go something like this:

Wedding Guest: Vilken sida av familjen står du på?


Wedding Guest:
*Smiles* Ja, det är ett av världens sju underverk. Säg inte till mig är du bara en annan amerikansk idiot som inte kan tala ett främmande språk?


Wedding Guest:
Varför har du stjäla bara min dryck?


Friday, July 23, 2010

One teacher's voice

I spent much of my Wednesday at work writing this story, and I think it came out great. Certainly on par with anything I've done in Nashua since I started last month. The story will probably run on the front of tomorrow's paper, but I wanted it to be available NOW, since I'm not a patient person, so I decided to copy and paste it here. Enjoy.

Nashua Superintendent Mark Conrad said he’d never seen anything like it. He wasn’t alone.

It’s not every day that fashion sparks an important issue at a Board of Education meeting.

Katherine Evans, 29, of Hudson, stepped to the microphone Monday night to speak about her struggles to find a job in education since 2008. For emphasis, she wore a white T-shirt with the words “HIRE ME!” inked in large green letters on the front. The shirt said, in smaller letters, “(See back for details)” under the hiring plea. A copy of her resume was printed on the back.

Evans said she wanted to be a voice for all the good teachers who are out of work and unable to land a job in the tough economic conditions. She said her speech was “out of character,” but she wasn’t sure how else to be heard.

“I wanted to express myself and network a little,” she said after the meeting.

Evans graduated from Keene State University in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and also completed a year-long extended education program at Southern Maine University, which she called “very intense” and difficult to get into.

“I thought that program would be the hardest part,” she said. “It really prepares you. I just wish I could use it.”

Evans said she has applied for “hundreds” of jobs since 2008 with no luck and even sent out 60 resumes last month to every school from Nashua to Concord. She received two responses.

“I don’t know if it’s what you know or who you know at this point,” she said.

Evans is hardly alone, and she knows it. The labor market in education has been flooded with teachers searching for jobs, but the positions just aren’t there.

“I think there’s a lot of good talent out there that we’re not able to take advantage of because of the lack of positions open,” Conrad said. “We’re finding many more resumes coming in than in the past from both new teachers and veteran teachers.”

Hudson Superintendent Randy Bell has seen a similar trend.

“Two years ago, we had a very large number, something like 40 vacancies,” he said. “But last year, they dwindled probably in half, and this year, at this point, it’s running a little less than that. So we do have vacancies, but nowhere near what we had two years ago.”

Mary Frazzetta, a human resources assistant for the Merrimack School District, said they have filled 12 positions this summer and three more are still available.

For those 15 teaching jobs, Frazzetta said the district received almost 1,000 resumes and applications.

“As high as that seems,” she said, “it’s not as abnormal as it sounds.”

Dana O’Gara, the director of human resources in the Nashua School District, said there were 954 applications for 87 jobs this year, 40 of which have already been filled.

“With the wealth of applications, many people do not get interviews,” O’Gara said.

But all of these schools are still hiring. Conrad and Bell said they are not cutting jobs from the budget, and they always have positions open up when teachers leave at the end of the school year. The difficulty comes from the abundance of people who want those jobs.

“There’s a lot more teachers out there in the waiver market,” Conrad said.

Most of the open positions vary across subject and age fields, but Bell said in Hudson there have been more middle school and high school positions available than in the elementary schools.

With no pattern forming in the job market, it means teachers like Evans have to stay on their toes.

“I love fourth grade, but beggars can’t be choosers,” Evans said. “I’ll get my Praxis in anything at this point.”

Evans is certified to teach kindergarten through eighth grade and has picked up anything she can get her hands on for experience. Right now, she receives wages from the federally funded Title I teaching program as a reading interventionist in Manchester – where she works one-on-one with children to help them learn to read – but is only paid for 30 hours per week even if she works more.

“If I could live off Title I pay, I would,” Evans said. “I just can’t.”

Her husband of four years, Josh Evans, landed a job as a teacher in the Litchfield School District, but Katherine Evans said money is still tight. The couple used much of their savings to pay back her college loans in 2008.

Evans said she has felt doubts about studying for a teaching degree since she’s been unemployed, but other jobs don’t have the same gratification.

“I’ve had jobs that had a potential for nice paychecks, but I just wasn’t satisfied at the end of the day,” she said. “In this job, you don’t do it for the paycheck.”

Multiple board members wished Evans good luck and commented on her “chutzpah” to get up in front of the board on Monday night and fight for teachers in New Hampshire.

Still, there was little Conrad could do except put her resume on file in the school district, something Evans said has already been done “multiple times” since her unemployment began.

But even if her attempt fails, Evans said she knows it will happen. In the meantime, she’s just trying to keep a positive attitude in mind.

“I like to think I have a good sense of humor about things, so why not have a little fun with this?” Evans said. “It looks a lot better than puffy paint would have.”

Thursday, July 15, 2010

My Dorothy Moment

Tonight, I took the painful, nostalgic plunge into uncharted territory.

I drove through campus as an alumnus.

It was quick, like a shot at the doctor’s office. I drove straight through and into Newmarket for a round of golf and a burger at Rocky’s with Mom. On my way out, the doctor pricked me again. Except this time, the needle stuck.

The familiar has never felt so strange.

I will never be in Durham the same way I once was. Not if I go to graduate school, not if I become a professor, not even if I take over Huddleston’s cushy job.

I’m a permanent visitor. The road team.

So many of my favorite places are no longer mine: The clocktower. The dorms. The luxurious lawn begging to be laid on in the breezy sunshine. The Whitt. The tennis courts. Ham Smith. The MUB. Pauly’s. Ballard’s. Wing’s. That center spot in front of the library.

I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t ask to go. My four years came and went. I didn’t realize what I had until it was gone. Time didn’t ask my permission. If it had, I would’ve begged: Please don’t make me go out there! I’m not ready! The real world has work! Bills! Taxes! Responsibility!

But I am ready. Other than a few forms I can’t begin to comprehend – I have enough trouble with a W2, don’t even try me on health care terminology or insurance or leasing agreements – I know what I’m doing out here. I have a job. I have an apartment. I have bills and I have paychecks. I am responsible. Sustainably independent.

But here’s the thing: it fucking sucks.

Not the way the Buckeyes or Rosby or the Blackhawks do. Not the way disease or death rips apart your life. But it’s the only way I can think to describe the change in lifestyle between a student in college and a young adult in life. It fucking sucks.

And I’m not trying to complain. Honest. The fact is that the change is jarring.

It doesn’t matter if you’re doing what you love, working a shit job, or struggling to find one at all. It just hits you all of a sudden. The Dorothy Moment:

I’m not in college anymore.

I’m not in the mood to preach. If you’ve got years left at school, do what you want with them. But know this: whether or not you want to, whether or not you’re ready, you’ll be leaving someday. You’ll be an alumnus.

And the transition’s not an easy one.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The British is coming! The British is coming!

In honor of the British Open at St. Andrews, which starts tomorrow, and my still favorite golfer, Tiger Woods, I've decided to post the op-ed I wrote back in April about Tiger's impending return to golf, "I am still Tiger Woods."

The Open at the Old Course at St. Andrews is special because it's one of the world's best golf tournaments at the game's most historic course. I've been lucky enough to walk the Old Course twice, and it's quite a sight. I can't wait for an exciting week of championship golf, culminating in what I hope will be Tiger's third British Open victory. Here's what I wrote about the loved and hated man back in April:

When I was five years old, my dad sawed off the end of a rusty MacGregor five-iron, popped off the worn black rubber from the useless end, refastened it to the jagged top of my new club, and led me out to my backyard in Canton, Mich. to smack my first golf ball. The second those Top Flite dimples whisked into the high grass behind our house, I was hooked for life.

I practiced putting with my Papa’s trusty old 10-iron on his muddy orange carpet every time we visited them in Oregon. The ball would roll into a tiny blue cup time after time again, each plop of the ball hitting the plastic producing a cheery “Oh!” from my proud grandmother. I spent hours putting on that carpet as a hopeful young 10-year-old and begged Papa for daily trips to the driving range downtown.

My parents have spent thousands of dollars on me for golf clubs, golf balls and greens fees. I’ve played in rain, snow, wind, hail, and sun. I remember putts like the 60-foot miracle that curved and dropped for birdie on No. 2 at North Conway Country Club; I remember shots like the 135-yard pitching wedge on No. 9 that bounced once on the green and sunk in for a birdie 3 and a front-nine 39; I remember my best score (72) and my worst (119); I remember mornings golfing across Ireland and Scotland with my dad and rainy afternoon rounds with my grandparents in Oregon.

You pick a year in my life, and I can tell you where I was golfing and how well I was playing. I am a golfer. And, in line with every young golfer of this generation, I loved Tiger Woods.

I had a poster of Tiger in my room. I went through a period where I would hit, wear and play with nothing but Nike equipment. I wore my “I am Tiger Woods” t-shirt so much as a pre-teen that it nearly disintegrated. I watched Tiger win and sulked when Tiger lost. I admired every stroke, every putt, every fist pump. Tiger was my golf hero.

And guess what? He still is.

Tiger will tee it up on Thursday for the most prestigious tournament in golf: The Masters at Augusta National. It’s his first tournament in 144 days, since he declared an indefinite leave from golf to fix marital troubles stemming from infidelities to his wife, Elin.

It’s the media storm of the year. The best player in golf history, in sports history, is nothing more than your everyday, professional sleazeball.

Many fans feel betrayed. They feel angry, let down, disappointed, and appalled. Not me. I hold Tiger in the same regard as I once did.

Why? He’s an athlete. I look up to him for his unmatched talent in golf. What he does in his personal life is none of my business.

If I want lessons on strong disposition, I remember afternoons with my late grandfathers, who served proudly in World War II and the Korean War. If my moral compass needs direction, I talk to my parents: successful, smart and happily married for 25 years. I have a collection of relatives, friends, coworkers, coaches, and teachers from my past who have all shown me virtuous traits in different forms.

With the support system around me, why would I hold the character of a professional athlete with much regard, given the incredible track record of failures?

Sure, there are athletes that give as much of their hearts off the field as they do on, but those stories don’t make headlines on page one. That space is reserved for the seemingly endless list of rapists, liars, womanizers, and drug abusers. Criminal acts of athletes point out the fatal flaw in our media-crazed environment: we worship these men and women and expect them to soar above standards that no one can possibly fulfill. And when they inevitably fail, the world ignites in fury.

Tiger Woods’ legacy as a man is tarnished but his reign over the golf world remains strongly intact. And when Tiger plants a wooden tee in the firm Augusta ground, locks his chiseled hands gently around his Tour Velvet grip and fires a dimpled Nike swoosh into the dazzling green distance, I’ll be the same pre-teen adolescent I once was: wishing that for just one day on the golf course I could say, “I am Tiger Woods.”