Monday, June 27, 2016

Odd Bits - Lord Stanley's Edition

This summer, like the last couple, I seem to have a lot of free time on my hands.  I’m not complaining.  I get to do the kind of things I like to do.  Not that it’s exciting, or anything.  I mostly go to Orioles games and movies, in and around binge-watching TV shows on DVD.  But there have been a couple of highlights…

All Hail Lord Stanley
I would be remiss if I don’t at least mention the experience of watching my Pittsburgh Penguins win the Stanley Cup for the fourth time in franchise history.  As each playoff series began, I’d think, “Gee, I don’t know how they’re going to beat these guys,” and then they’d go right out and do it… convincingly.  The Rangers, Capitals, Lightning, and then the Sharks in the finals… no one could keep up with the Penguins speed and pressure.

There were a number of subplots as well.  Phil Kessel, an under-appreciated all-star from Toronto, gets surrounded with top notch talent for the first time and wins his first Stanley Cup.  There was Matt Murray, a 21-year old goalie who spent over half the season in the minors before stepping in for injured starter Marc-Andre Fleury and shutting the door on all comers.  There was the newly formed HBK line (Hagelin, Bonino & Kessel), born from an injury to Evgeni Malkin to become an unstoppable “3rd line,” for which no team had an answer.

It’s a shame that the Pens couldn’t win the Cup at home, in Game 5.  There were thousands of people in the streets, outside the arena, just waiting to bust loose.

Personally, I think that was the problem: bad mojo.  You don’t show up to celebrate until AFTER the game is won.  Pens fans tempted the mojo gods, who in turn smote them by having the Pens win the Cup on the other side of the country.

Watching the last game was exhausting; there were so many tangents to the 2009 Cup Finals Game 7… playing on the road, nursing a 2 goal lead, having it cut to 1 with about 6 minutes to play.  Fortunately, the paths diverged when the Pens were able to knock in an empty-net goal with a minute left in the game, to take a 3-1 lead.  That took all the stress out of the last minute.  And then it was over, and holy shit...  Another championship for the Burgh.  That makes 12 during my lifetime, 15 in total.

I spent the next day buying all the championship swag I could get my hands on.  Some of it started rolling in last week.

Stanley Cup polo shirt, with the locker room hat.

I had the jerseys, but I ordered a couple of Stanley Cup patches to go on them.

Too bad the white one is now effectively obsolete.  The Pens just announced they’re going to go with the 1992-era home black and visiting white jerseys.  Aside from closeting my current white jerseys, I’m happy with the decision.  It’s really a good look.  Of course, I’ll have to get in touch with my favorite Chinese sweatshop, to bring in jersey reinforcements before the next season starts.

I’m still waiting for the t-shirt, commemorative puck and a new “4-time Stanley Cup winner” hat, to replace my “3-time Stanley Cup winner” hats.

Now I just have to figure out how to get that 4th Stanley Cup in my blog header.

O’s Say Can You See
As my buddy, the CFO noticed from my Facebook postings, I’m on a record pace for seeing Orioles games this year.  Sunday was my 14th of the season.  Last year, I’d seen only 10 by the end of June and 21 by the end of the year. 

I used to try to go to at least one game per homestand.  This year, I’ve been able to see at least one game of every visiting team but one.  (Screw the Yankees.)  I’m on pace for a 28-game year, but that’s a bit misleading.  Judging from the back half of the schedule, which has a lot more long road trips for the Orioles, I probably won’t see more than another 9-10 games.  One of them will be against the Arizona Diamondbacks, though, which is the only team I’ve never seen live.  Of course, it’s the last home series of the year.

The best experience so far was last Wednesday, when the Orioles had another “Social Media Night.”  I went to one last year, where they had a buffet table, free drink tickets, raffle giveaways, and a Q and A with closer Zach Britton.

It was the same deal this year, but the Q and A was with Chris Davis, the O’s strapping slugger and last year’s home run champ.  He’s also one of my favorite players, so I got myself a ticket just as soon as I got the event notification email.

Chris Davis and his guns.

I remember the exact moment he became one of my favorites.  It was in 2012, his first season with the team after being traded from Texas.  The Orioles won a game late on a walk-off base hit by Nate McLouth.  When all the players ran out onto the field to celebrate, Davis picked McLouth up over his shoulder and ran around with him as if he were a child.

He literally ran around the infield like this.    (Source)

Now, McLouth will never be confused with the big boys like Prince Fielder or Bartolo Colon, but he’s still a grown-ass man and Davis handled him like he was a sack of potatoes.  I thought to myself, “This SOB is strong…”

Anyway, the event was cool.  I even got to ask a question… I wanted to know who he thought would hit the Warehouse (in right field) with a home run ball first, him or ex-Pirate Pedro Alvarez.  Chris said his own power was mostly to center field and the alleys and when he pulls the ball to right, it generally hooks so he didn’t think he’d do it.  Pedro, he said, was really powerful, so that’s who he’d pick to knock one off the Warehouse.

Other things I learned: he bench presses 405 and squats over 600 (but not lately, to save his knees), he had a big mustache in the early season but his wife kiboshed it, and if he ran for president, reliever Darren O’Day would be his VP.  What, you think people were asking about batting mechanics?

Speaking of O’Day, they also announced that he would be the guest of honor on the next Social Media Night, on August 4th.  This news caused me to email Sitcom Kelly immediately because he is the next candidate for her basement Silence of the Lambs pit.  If he disappears somewhere between the Q and A and the clubhouse, I think I’ll know where people can find him.

Card Tricks
For the last couple of years, everyone has been telling me to watch House of Cards; that the show was great and I would love it.  I never doubted it.  The only reason I hadn’t seen it was because I don’t do Netflix.  But with the summer TV dead spots, I found myself in need of viewing material, so I ordered the DVDs of both “House of Cards” and “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.”

I was surprisingly disappointed in Kimmy Schmidt.  Maybe I was expecting too much because it was a Tina Fey production, but I just didn’t find it that funny.  I maybe chuckled a time or two throughout the entire first season.  I don’t believe I’ll pursue the second.

On the other hand, I loved “House of Cards.”  It’s like the seedy underside of another favorite series, “The West Wing.”  I love plausibly realistic political intrigue and I found myself thinking the main character, Kevin Spacey’s Frank Underwood, was evil incarnate, yet wishing my own congressmen were that smart.

Now, remember when the HBO movie “Game Change” was filming here in Baltimore, and I got such a kick out of seeing a scene played out along the very route I walked to work every day?  The same thing happened with House of Cards, which also films in the Baltimore area.

The signature scene of Season 2 (or maybe the entire series) takes place in a subway station, which I instantly recognized as the one I passed through every day for 17 years (up until we moved our office last summer).

I know it’s several years old by now but I still don’t want to provide any spoilers.  Suffice to say there’s a scene where Frank Underwood talks with reporter Zoe Barnes, played by Kate Mara. 

They speak clandestinely, from opposite sides of a chain-link fence at the end of the station platform.   (Source)

The pillar on the circular seat and fencing on the end were added to the set.   (Source)

Within an instant of the beginning of the scene, I could see it was the Charles Center Metro stop in Baltimore.  I know that wall, I know that yellow line, I know the round wooden seats.  (The underground stations do not all look alike.) A route map appeared in the background, showing a “You Are Here” dot at the third stop from the end.  That’s Charles Center.  Booyah!

This is what it looks like without set dressing.

No fencing, in real life.  I shot this last week, on my way home from an Orioles game.

Anyway, I love it when local landmarks show up on national television, so I thought I’d share.

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