NHL


1352910431291_Xfinity_DavesOldPorn_1280x640_Overlay_590_295The great David Attell (above), starring in the little known Showtime show, “Dave’s Old Porn.”

When we tuned in to Howard 100 on Wednesday of last week, we weren’t sure the show would even be new, with the show’s seemingly always expanding vacation breaks.  When we heard that it was, we figured it was to be a one day work week, since Howard stopped doing new Thursday shows with his last contract.  So when we tuned in Thursday we were doubly delighted, both at the prospect of a fresh show, and at the very interesting SNL cast member Fred Armisen, who guested, with a new season of Portlandia about to debut.  Armisen meets both major criteria for an excellent guest.  He’s funny and honest.  It made for interesting radio to hear Armisen candidly discuss having to borrow money while in his 30’s from disappointed parents, his failed marriage to Mad Men star Elisabeth Moss (who told a magazine recently that Armisen’s greatest impression and least employed one is that of a “normal person”), his relationship with Lorne Michaels, and how he is a life long Stern fan who, as a boy, would listen to the show in the mornings with his South American mom.

Better still was Armisen’s willingness to do the Wrap Up Show, which, let’s face it, is greatly enhanced by any outside help it can get.  When Armisen was asked to weigh in on Ronnie’s practice of hopping up on the sink and washing his asshole, his genuine discomfort was priceless.  The holidays are a great time to hear recounted by Howard, whether he is complaining about his Christmas gifts (always classic), or describing his disdain for travel and ill ease when on vacation (also classic).  So when Armisen discussed a row boat he had gotten Lorne Michaels as a present which started Howard on a ‘Howard is unappreciated by the staff who’d be nothing without him’ rant, it gave us Howard at his best: angry Howard.  It was also great to hear Armisen back Howard’s belief that going to Italy is stupid, saying that essentially Howard is right when he says that people go away to a foreign place and immediately begin to watch foreign TV while they plan where they can get their familiar tasting coffee, longing for the comforts of home, like of course, “good toilets.”

The show seems to always hum when celebrity guests are fans of the show, which was also the case on Friday–the rarest of indulgences–when super fan Natalie Maines and long time guest Dave Attell, visited the program.  It seems like it was centuries ago when Howard did a Friday show, and that Robin was absent, who often lends a much needed soft balance, actually enhanced the program, for our money.

In part that is a real credit to these guests, Stern show veterans, who don’t need the buffer that Robin sometimes provides to the reticent.  Natalie Maines, who we do not appreciate as an artist, is an absolutely compelling guest, both because of free speech issues and because she is geeked up on the show.  Natalie Maines is a true lesson in the cautionary nature of free speech, vilified for criticizing perhaps the nation’s worst ever president, and though the Dixie Chicks were right and only exercising their 1st amendment right, it’s also true they have never recovered, and will never recover.

Now obviously it isn’t very smart to disrespect a Republican, Texan president when you are essentially a countrified novelty act, alienating a lot of your fan base.  We doubt, for instance, that Eddie Veder or Dave Grohl would have suffered similarly had they have made similar remarks.  The thing about Natalie Maines that one must always respect is her willingness to speak the truth, which remains undiminished despite her career travails.  It was outstanding to hear her criticisms of Lisa G, who we have absolutely no use for, and which were nothing if not true.  Lisa G is awful.  She is a dried up, chaste spinster, a hack, annoying and overly opportunistic but who lacks the talent to justify it.  Shuli’s and some other staffers’ bitterness at Lisa for cashing in on the show with her tea party/cookie party nonsense is totally warranted.  At least the block parties and other comedy tours offer some entertainment value.  We have to say that we have appreciated, in Howard’s quest for brevity, the consolidation of the show’s daily timeline, insofar as it has diminished Lisa’s boring bit.  Consequently, we have been pleased by John Leiberman’s expanding role because he is a good sport who is good for the show, and funny, which Lisa is not.  Does anyone recall Lisa with that put on bit where she considered sleeping with Ronnie?  Absurd.  First off, Lisa is an old maid.  Secondly, Ronnie?  Perhaps the most unattractive person at all of Sirius–impish, old, foul mouthed, uncouth and grotesque.  When Natalie Maines called out Lisa for trying to get Back Office Radio off the air, Lisa, on the spot, said something to the effect of, ‘well, they make fun of me.’  Maine’s response summed up Lisa’s sorry existence perfectly.  She said, “why don’t you take it like a man?”

BTW, Back Office Radio is actually very entertaining, especially as it comes on a day of the week when there’s no other live programming.  And say what you want about Will or Jason, who we normally don’t love but who has grown on us, they are not opportunistic.  They are happy to be there, and as Jason described last week when challenged to put down his pipe, loathe to disappoint Howard.  You don’t see them trying to capitalize on Howard’s name every which way, or combining shameless money grabs with cheap pandering, like the nonsense about having Howard take the picture for the cover of a book.  Was anything at all more transparent?  In truth, we feel that Howard probably feels a bit sorry for Lisa, and so he is willing to let slide some things that he won’t tolerate from others.

After Artie’s departure, we had felt that the show was foundering a little bit, as Howard and Robin regrouped and readjusted to a show that had one less significant contributor.  We worried a bit for the show’s long term prospects, but soon we saw that it was foolish to doubt Howard, and that the show was as good as always.  Though in our opinion, the more is usually the merrier when we are talking about adding funny people to the mix.  We always like when a person we approve of is sitting in, like for example, Jimmy Kimmel, and so we look forward to those few days a year.  As we also do, of course, with the great George Tekkai, and the often great David Arquette, who brings in an interesting dynamic by his inability to not know when to shut up.  We thought that when Shuli sat in for those days this fall that he was funny and wasn’t overbearing, and wondered if he wasn’t maybe on tap to be a low cost replacement in Artie’s chair.  We guess the chemistry was lacking though, because Shuli hasn’t been back.

Of course, we absolutely love Sour Shoes.  His appearances as in house musical talent have been stellar.  Not just his musical talent either, but the voices and quirks, as well as the very interesting history/background, which Howard loves to probe.  The guy basically comes upon nominal contact with a female, has not been on a date since the 90’s, and lapses into baby talk or Bababooey talk while flipping burgers at Wendy’s.  What could be better?  Sour Shoes would provide a lot of bang for minimal buck, which is obviously important to Sirius, which frankly, has seemed to skimp on talent and on the Stern Show, which is why we suspect that Howard is really down to 3 days a week.  Howard was adamant last year that he had not and would not accept a pay cut, and technically, a reduced schedule at the same rate does not constitute one.  We can also tell that the entire show really appreciates Sour Shoes’ presence there.  To hear Fred be so complimentary of Sour Shoes, or Sal just gush about him, really tells us that he is not only valued but has the right chemistry for the gig.  It’s a shame that Sirius has created acrimony with Howard, denying him his bonus, denying Fred and his daughter access to the One Direction concert, when obviously Fred is not the type to make untoward demands of his employers.  Gary recently talked about how when they all got to Sirius, there was a lot of good will, promise, and optimism, and that “now it’s long gone.”  We really hope Howard is there for a long time to come, but also feel that Howard and his people, that talent in general, needs to be respected, honored, and paid accordingly, and we’ve seen a trend away from that, with Howard being a prime example of management’s lack of respect for talent (another obvious example would be the very despicable NHL lockout).

Below is a link to the uber talented Sour Shoes in another radio appearance, this time with Mike Francesa.  Take a look:

Friday’s other guest, Dave Attell, one of the flat out funniest dark comics anywhere, would be an amazing, if higher profile and more expensive option.  It was great to hear Attell, whom we’ve always loved, and it was also excellent to hear Attell and Howard talk, uninterrupted by Robin, who does not need to play buffer for a comedic genius like Attell.  As great as Howard is mad, he is also great when he takes a fatherly tone with people, in a sort of advisory capacity, as he often does with Sal, as he did with Jason about cannabis, and as he did with Attell regarding his career and finances.  We have to apologize to Attell, as even as big fans of his, we were unaware of his Dave’s Old Porn, which we’ve now quickly sought to become acquainted with.  Whether Attell is joking about his masturbation frequency or methods (‘on an old IBM mission control’), discussing his discomfort with first class flying, citing a “certain level of douchebaggery” among first class travelers, or just being candid about his life and the state of comedy, we were enthralled.  As huge Doug Stanhope fans, we were very interested to hear Attell tell us that Stanhope, and another favorite, Louis CK, are the best in the business.  We also thought it extremely humble of Attell, a comedy lifer, to critique his own comedy, saying that he’s definitely “not great, could be better.”  It too was nice to hear him say nice things about Kathy Griffin, another favorite of ours.

We know that Attell would be a perfect fit on the show in a permanent role, and in fact, would enhance an already great product tremendously.  With Attell traveling with Artie (“The Anti Social Comedy Tour”) though, and so humble and careful not to offend fellow comics, we aren’t sure how comfortable he’d be with what could be perceived by some as taking Artie’s job, though he’d have to be comfortable with the pay, especially since he is losing money on Showtime.  And let’s face it.  Artie has obviously moved on with another national radio show, and it would be very petty of him to stand in the away of Attell, who, frankly is a much better comic than Artie, no disrespect, whether off the cuff or as a standup.  Especially since Artie has no one to blame but himself that he no longer works on the greatest radio show in history.

We’ll conclude with a kind word for Jason and his bid to go straight for a month without herb.  Your predicament has inspired me to do the same, and I too, will have a party when my time is through.

In Solidarity,

Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com)

This nonsense has been hanging over our heads, faithful NHL fans with an eye for labor unrest would agree, for probably close to 2 years, and what should be closer to 8, since the last time the league pulled this powerplay, and proudly broke the will and the leadership of the NHLPA.  There would have to be a rumble in the next CBA, and so here we are.  NHL Lockout 2012, in much the same fashion as they brought us NHL Lockout 2004 and NHL Lockout 1994.  And by many of the same offensive offenders.  Jeremy Jacobs, Ed Snider, Lou Lamoriello, and of course, the worst commissioner in professional sports, by a mile, the front man and lead goon in a record 3rd lockout, Gary Bettman.

We don’t care for the argument that he is only doing what he is told.  That’s not true.  The owners are doing what Bettman tells them to do, and not vice versa.  Bettman has tightened up the NHL bylaws so that the power of the commissioner is nearly indomitable, as the obviously very astute Ken Dryden reminds us in the recent article excerpted below:

In NHL governors’ meetings, Bettman would point this out, at first forcefully, over time as if possessed.  He presented elaborate charts: Here’s what the league and individual teams take in, here’s what we spend. It makes no sense. Here’s what winning teams spend, here’s what losing teams spend. There’s no correlation between spending and performance (there was, in fact, some correlation). It makes no sense.

He would run a roll call of teams, and one by one take team owners, with all their private business splashed up on a big screen for everyone to see, to the principal’s office. Here’s what you’re doing – you idiot – here are the results you’re getting – you moron – and, always prefaced by the anti-trust defeating phrase, “Of course, you have the right, as everyone does, to make any decision you want” – what are you going to do in the future – you total fool.

To get out of the principal’s office, team owners learned to respond as if at an AA meeting.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/hockey/league-and-players-are-fighting-in-an-age-of-disagreement/article4543964/

And:

He had to get their support to change the NHL bylaws so that a higher percentage of team owners were required to override any proposed agreement with the NHLPA he brought to them. Then he’d need the support of only a few friendly owners, and the negotiations were his. He got the bylaws changed.

This is part of the reason he gets to so cockily tout his position in the negotiations, like saying “we simply feel we are paying the players too much money.”  Obviously, as is evidenced by the spate of huge contracts being offered by these owners, of their own free will mind you, they do not feel they are paying the players too much.  A small market team, for God sakes, offered the richest contract in history not once but twice in the same day, when Minnesota signed Suter and Parise.  BTW, we hate Parise, obviously, but could not argue at all when asked for comment on the labor situation, and he said “You know Bettman loves his lockouts.”

It’s another part of the reason, for the sport of it.  And what kind of guy gets off on depriving workers of their livelihoods?  Make no mistake about this, there are workers that are going to be deprived of their jobs.  All arena workers, and many ancillary workers, players aside.  This is not a good guy.  If you listen to his press conferences and interviews, do you not get the distinct impression you are hearing from a sheisty lawyer telling multiple lies a minute.  Forget that he invoked the price of jet fuel and hand massages when asked about inflation affecting the owners.  It’s not that.  It’s that he is a mean and vindictive labor leader and therefore, needs to be vigorously protected from by the union.  It’s also that he hasn’t come up as extremely intelligent when dealing with labor issues, franchise issues, potential owners, and just about all the really relevant issues affecting the league.

We haven’t thought much of him from the get go.  But apparently NHL owners are either none too hard to please or even less bright than Bettman himself.  And they don’t have too much more of a heart than Bettman either, sanctioning these lockouts, which almost feel like a rite of passage at this point.  Here is some very pointed criticism of Bettman from another good article on the looming lockout and specifically, on Bettman’s performance and on the league, from author and economist Andrew Zimbalist:

“It means it is poorly managed,” said our frank, 64-year-old professor of economics at Smith College in Massachusetts, and author of 20 books, including May The Best Team Win: Baseball Economics and Public Policy.

“Mr. Bettman, although he has some qualities that are admirable, has made a lot of bad decisions,” Zimbalist said this week, before Thursday’s confirmation that we are heading towards Bettman’s third lockout since becoming the commissioner of the National Hockey League in 1993. “He has not promoted effective management at the team level, and he is unwilling to admit his mistakes and walk away from them.”

http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl-lockout/2012/09/13/nhl_lockout_cba_betmann_bad_for_business/

Zimbalist calls the game’s popularity in the USA as on a “thin string.”  He criticizes Bettman for threatening the stability and popularity of the game in the US, and for insisting on a bad policy of expansion in the American southeast where he was in essence, forcing the game on little interested markets.  Yet he is the guy asking for a 15% reduction in salaries, a reduction that actually equates to a 17.3% reduction in salary when the league’s new definition of hockey related revenue is applied.

The owners are destined to fight, obviously at Bettman’s behest, because they feel that the players, who agreed to rollbacks and other severe concessions last time, could be broken again, should they apply a little financial pressure in the form of lost earnings.  The players need to fight because they got beat so badly last time.  They need to resurrect the reputation of the union, which once had a fine reputation as smart and tough, is now considered a laughingstock.

Things like that are gonna have a funny way of changing the perception with a guy like Donald Fehr running things for the players.  The players needed a good guy, and perhaps, they got the best guy there ever was in sports labor relations.  Is Fehr an evil lawyer himself?  A bit.  But he’s brilliant.  He’s a guy you know has thought through every angle.  So brilliant, and hammer him for this if you like, but he was able to keep accountable steroid testing out of baseball for years and years after the steroid problem had become a scandal and a black mark on the game.

For Fehr, that’s an opportunity to keep big stats in the game, which keep leading to record contracts.  As it is his job, first and foremost to fight for the union, and the big contracts are phenomenal for the union.  We can’t see how Bettman feels all that comfortable in this confrontation.  Zimbalist also feels that by offering the players a 15% reduction, that Bettman was negotiating from an “unreasonable position”, which smells like, at the very least, bad faith to us.

We think Fehr knows a lot of tricks that Bettman hasn’t seen yet.  We know he’s gone to school, to Harvard, essentially, on the NHL and it’s embarrassing practices.  And Fehr and the players both understand the necessity of re-making the union’s reputation.  That’s not the kind of thing that a guy like Fehr undertakes lightly.  He refused to open negotiations early, knowing full well of the league’s intend to lockout.  Fehr is not exactly shying away from this course of action.  He’s ready to fight, and he’s a guy who really has never lost a fight like this, in a league of his own.

We think the players are doing a good job in the press, as the owners unreasonable position seems ironclad.  The players winning press is going to help the players ultimately get a nice deal.  Once the fans and media become totally entrenched in their position as pro player, Bettman is going to drop the nonsense and talk turkey.  We see Fehr bamboozling Bettman at that time, in ways that Bettman won’t be able to figure out for a few good years of head scratching, just like every CBA, pretty much, that Bettman has gotten for his greedy, malicious owners.

Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com)

According to Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News, the slumping Rangers will place Sean Avery on re-entry waivers at noon today. Avery is expected to clear waivers and rejoin the club for Thursday’s match at the Garden with Anaheim. Larry Brooks of The Post is also reporting the Avery recall. Looks like the team expects Andre Devaux to fill the energy role tonight against the surging Sharks.

Recently deceased Rangers’ forward Derek Boogard (above).

The local papers brought more to light regarding this tragic incident today.  Larry Brooks of the New York Post was the first from our local media to report that Boogard had been involved in the league and player’s association recovery program.  Brooks did not break that story nationally, as it was first reported in the Minneapolis Tribune, but he did mention that Boogard had returned to the team in April and then sought permission from Rangers’ President Glen Sather to leave the team in order to further pursue recovery.  Rangers Daily News beat reporter Jesse Spector also reported this, as well as the family’s decision to donate Boogard’s remains to the important scientific research on CTE being done by Boston University.  More from Spector:

It also was a day of very sad and uncomfortable questions, both about the reactions of the people close to Boogaard and the situation that now will unfold in the aftermath of his death. Perhaps the most awkward query of the day was the last one, as I just learned that, as you might expect, the remaining three years on Boogaard’s contract do not count against the salary cap. It turns out that under the CBA, death is the same as retirement from a salary cap standpoint – according to the NHLPA, had Boogaard been over 35 years old when he signed his contract, the rest of the contract would have remained in effect against the cap.

The major developments of the day were that a source said Boogaard was involved in the NHLPA/NHL Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health program, which could have been for any number of off-ice issues, and that, as the Minneapolis Star-Tribune first reported, Boogaard’s family has agreed to donate his brain to scientific research with the Boston University program that has made so many recent breakthroughs with posthumous examinations of NHL enforcer Bob Probert and dozens of NFL players.

http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/rangers/2011/05/sadness-grows-over-derek-boogaards-death-and-questions-emerge

Whatever substance issues Boogard struggled with, we are confident that proper scientific testing will reveal were linked to the fatal disease CTE, and that Boogard will be the youngest hockey player diagnosed.  Yesterday, we called for the league to do more to protect the players.  Today, we will ask the New York Rangers to also do something, considering this tragedy and the missed diagnosis of a concussion on Rangers star Marian Gaborik by team doctors this winter.

Crack (http://crackbillionair.wordpress.com, http://www.crackbillionair.com)

Rangers forward Derek Boogard (above), found dead in his Minnesota apartment yesterday.

Boogard came to the team as a big ticket replacement for Jody Shelley, a tough as nails fighter, who had done the tough job of being an enforcer for the team, and was one that other players feared.  So when Boogard joined the team early last summer, all 6’8″ of him, with his imposing reputation preceding him, a young man who tough guys were reluctant to fight with because of his quick hands and menacing size, many Ranger fans were just fine with the transaction, as in hockey, unfortunately, teams need someone scary to keep their high end talent safe.

Frankly, there’s a lot wrong with the game, and so is this.  We have been debating internally our stance on fighting in the game since we read a whole bunch about Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, related mostly to ex-football players, but also to Bob Probert, a legendary NHL tough guy.  We know the league is also looking hard at fighting as well, with arguably its best player, Sidney Crosby, wrung up soundly with a concussion from which he has not recovered.  Will the golden boy whom the NHL has swung just about all of its marketing impetus behind ever be the same?

There is some question.  Derek Boogard was the type of player a team would acquire to keep players like Crosby unencumbered.  It’s thankless work.  And some, in hockey circles, can’t understand how a guy that gets 3 or 4 minutes of ice a game and who isn’t counted on for his playing skills, can occupy a seat on the bench, taking away opportunity from a more talented player, and can earn so much in the process.  The Rangers paid Derek Boogard in excess of one million dollars a year.

It’s a blood sport.  As much as we have always been fans of seeing our guy kick the hell out of the other guy, the concept of the enforcer has become barbaric to us, and always should have been.  We’re surprised more haven’t perished, and we are seriously concerned that there is no really effective way to protect top end talent, which is a dark notion for the league that gets worse ratings than NASCAR.

But Sidney Crosby isn’t on the sidelines because of a fight or what an enforcer could or couldn’t do.  There’s no way to keep players safe.  They are bigger and faster than ever, stronger than ever, and the collisions and impacts, in our humble opinion, are leaving imprints that are the same as the ones being suffered by guys like Dave Duerson, who recently shot himself in the chest with a shotgun, and left his brain to science.

Jeff Klein of the New York Times offers a much better obituary on Boogard than we ever could.  Here’s part of it:

 In poll after poll of N.H.L. players it was always a landslide: Derek Boogaard was the toughest, most feared fighter in the league.

Signed to a four-year contract averaging $1.6 million a year, Boogaard played just 22 games for the Rangers.

So fearsome was the hulking Boogaard that last summer the Rangers signed him to a four-year contract at an average of $1.6 million per year —far higher than most enforcers command.

His most significant hockey statistic was 6-foot-7, 265-pound. Playing a handful of shifts a game, he scored only three goals in 277 career games over six seasons, but amassed 589 penalty minutes including 70 fights. In one stretch of almost five years, he went 234 consecutive games without scoring, the longest drought in league history. In drills at the Rangers’ training camp last year, he trailed behind the other players, winded, as he had done at camps with his previous team, the Minnesota Wild.

Boogaard, 28, was found dead in his Minneapolis apartment by members of his family on Friday, and within hours his fellow players — including those he sometimes fought — were sending messages of condolence through the social media.

Sgt. Bill Palmer, a spokesman for the Minneapolis police, said Boogaard was dead when emergency medical technicians arrived. He said the police do not suspect foul play because Boogaard’s body showed no sign of physical trauma.

Palmer said the police would not comment about a possible cause of death until the medical examiner’s office completed toxicology tests after an autopsy performed Saturday. A final report is expected to be released in about two weeks, he said.

Boogaard was remembered fondly by former teammates in Minnesota and New York and by former fighting opponents.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/15/sports/hockey/rangers-enforcer-boogaard-is-found-dead-at-his-minneapolis-apartment.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1     

Boogard had a fight with Ottawa’s Matt Carkner in early December, suffered a concussion, and was yet to return.   You can see video of that fight below.

As for us, we don’t have a lot to say about the man because his stay was so short here.  We liked his acquisition, and his attitude, but he only played in a handful of games.  On not scoring in over 200 games consecutively, we remember how Boogard enthusiastically proclaimed in an interview before the season opener, that he planned on getting off the snide that night.  We were happy to see him get that first goal in so long a few games later.

We’d hate to conjecture about the dead, but we would not be surprised if Boogard suffered from CTE.  Whether or not that’s the case, we are calling for the league to do whatever’s necessary to make the game safer.

Crack (http://crackbillionair.wordpress.com, http://www.crackbillionair.com)

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