Monday, November 14, 2005


What's Zen in Russian?

More from Cosh in the post Sacamano linked below:
I wonder if it's a coincidence that the real war on the Battle of Alberta weblog has involved Flames-loving host Matt sitting back, smirking, and pretending to hover loftily above his own team's struggles while the Oiler fans who comprise the majority of the site's readership rend their flesh like teenage goths. Calgary hasn't been discernibly better than the Oilers this year, and its fans were habituated to much higher expectations in the pre-season. The team was even tipped to win the Stanley Cup by the thinly-educated guessers at Sports Illustrated. Since I only get to hear my own city's talk radio, I have no idea whether the Zen calm Matt attempts to project is widely shared, or whether our southern twin is as full of whimpering neurotics as Edmonton is. My instinctive suspicion is that the Flames' ticketholders are mostly bedwetting corporate lawyers who grew up resenting jocks and never quite cottoning to Peter Puck's explanation of the offside rule. Too busy to give a maiden aunt's crap about hockey: that's Calgary. Don't you know it's hard work transforming a worldwide energy crisis into a giant pyramid of cocaine and fifty-dollar beefsteaks?

First of all, I love the shades-of-McBain in that last sentence. (Q. How are Flames fans dealing with the fact that, 20 games in, their team isn't completely dominating the NHL? A. On top of a pile of money, with many beautiful ladies.)

But more to the point, while I'm less excitable than most, I think my outlook is fairly typical. I think "habituated" is exactly the wrong word to use regarding the expectations of Flames fans. The most successful run the Flames had in 15 years (the "Red Mile Era", a.k.a. the 2004 playoffs), they went 15-11 (5-7 at home). Their longest winning streak was four games, overlapping the Detroit and San Jose series.

This isn't to downplay their accomplishment in the slightest, but rather to point out that it's entirely understandable why fan mobs aren't egging Darryl Sutter's house after a 1-3-1 road trip. Contemporary Flames fans have no handy frame-of-reference for what constitutes a great regular season, or what a Stanley Cup champion looks like in autumn. I suspect most fans look at things the same way as I do: Kipper looks solid, Iginla's still the man, the D has come around from those terrible first 4 games--things should work out.

I should also point out that, contrary to Cosh's fantastic Russian serf analogy, this attitude is by no means something inherent to Calgary and not Edmonton. In the 1st round of the 1990 playoffs, less than 12 months after the Flames won their 1st Cup, Allan Maki wrote a front-page column in the Calgary Herald calling for coach Terry Crisp to be fired immediately, i.e. before the next game. For roughly 10 years ('86-'95), Calgary fans and media were as fickle and flesh-rending as they come.

And finally, there's this: the statement that "Calgary hasn't been discernibly better than the Oilers this year" becomes less tenable every day, set against the reality of the sports pages. Why have I "hovered loftily" above my team's struggles? How about because I'm right? Here's what I wrote on October 31st after the Flames gave up a 2-goal lead to San Jose in the 3rd and lost in a shootout:
The thing I'm happy to report about listening on Saturday is that it wasn't a Guillotine game. I wasn't expecting bad things to happen. I still expect good things from the Flames, and no doubt they'll fulfill those expectations through November.

You can't call it cockeyed optimism, or anything like it, when it turns out to be 100% accurate. I'm pretty confident that there's a lot of red cards in the Flames' deck, and after their next loss, I'll be just as sure. (Although a 2-goal loss to the Blackhawks would be tough to take).


You know, I thought that the 'bedwetting corporate lawyers' line was a little over the top. I am sure there are plenty of bed wetters in the Oilers camp and you can take it from me, lots of corporate lawyers thought that Peter Puck was good fun, but pretty silly. And we cheered loud and hard at the Dome BOTH times the Oilers visited this year (and, lost, I believe, if memory serves).

Ah, he's forgiven since he used "whimpering neurotics" to describe his own city's fans.

And I've never had a $50 steak before, but the one time I paid $35, that steak was just about the best thing I've ever tasted. Caesar's downtown: highly recommended.

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