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You Might Be a Redneck Hockey Player If…

dukes-of-hazzard-confederate-flag

An ice hockey game? Can she still wear Daisy Dukes?

I have a confession to make. I cannot make head or tails of hockey. And considering DC has the best team in the league, that is a major bummer. I respect the sport immensely but whenever I try to follow the puck, I feel like a tabby teased with a laser pointer.

I think it has something to do with being from the South. With today’s technology, ice rinks are as common as Starbucks. But skating on the lone ice rink in 1985 Memphis was as novel as walking on Mars. Keep in mind, when I was growing up, there were no Nashville Predators or Carolina Hurricanes. On a hockey freelance assignment once, I had a 10-minute conversation with Gordie Howe and had no idea who he was.

So when I look at hockey, I can’t help but bring a Southern mentality to it. Take hockey player names. Many of them properly convey the devastating power, grit and grace these athletes possess: Alex Ovechkin. Jaromir Jagr. There’s even a Michal Jordan.

Then there is the handful of unfortunates who sound like they should be throwing rocks at Forrest Gump.

Still, they are my peeps. Or at least sound like them.

Siberian cat - kitten watching light spot

Me at every hockey game, ever.

Take Dallas center Vernon Fiddler. Or Detroit’s Tomas Tatar. (I know the Slovakian player’s name is probably pronounced more like the fancy raw steak, but in my head I hear my grandma cooking “tay-ters” for dinner.)

I would give anything for Beau Bennett and Bo Horvat to team up with Luke Glendening and Luke Schenn.

Islanders right wing Cal Clutterbuck isn’t alone–there are actually numerous Cal’s across the NHL, but it’s the “Clutterbuck” that makes me mentally cast him alongside Dallas’ Cody Eakin and Colton Sceviour in a Bonanza episode. Throw in Jimmy Howard, J.T. Brown, and Calvin Pickard and you could pull off Oklahoma.

Finally, there’s Columbus center Boone Jenner, which sounds more “Bull Durham” than “Slapshot” to me. It manages to be both sexy and redneck at the same time—exactly the kind of guy I like, if I weren’t twice his age. So I’ll leave it there, y’all.

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Sports Numbers You Need to Know

Simply the best.

Simply the best.

So in honor of Derek Jeter’s historic sendoff last night, I thought I would compile a quick list of these sports stats and numbers you often hear in bar conversations, on Sports Center, and even in rap songs (scroll to :46 for a Jay-Z reference to #5).

So here is a baker’s dozen (and just a FEW–bear with me, I’m writing this on a coaster), so please feel free to comment with other biggies.

I’m listing the numbers first for a little quiz fun, then scroll down for the answers.

Let’s go!

1 — 2

2 — 12th Man

3 — 60 feet, 6 inches

4 — 23

5 — Game 6

6 — 42

7 — 17-0

8 — 158.3

9 — 100

10 — 99

11 — 2,131

12 — 18

13 — Oh let’s go for the baker’s dozen: 1,098. Now you may scroll….

**********************************************************************

1 — Derek “Captain” Jeter, Yankees shortstop for 20 years, retiring after 2014.

2 — Slogan (with a super cool history) of Texas A&M and Seattle football (and a host of others), meaning the crowd’s noise and support as the additional team member to the 11 on the field.

3 — Distance from professional pitcher mound to home plate.

4 — Michael Jordan’s jersey number.

5 — Famous 1998 NBA Finals game between the Bulls and the Jazz; Bulls won 87–86, their sixth NBA Championship in eight years. It was also the final game with the Bulls for Jordan and coach Phil Jackson. It earned the highest TV ratings of an NBA game of all time. Jordan hit a jump shot with 5.6 seconds left to put the Bulls on top for good 87–86.

6 — Jackie Robinson’s jersey number – first African-American to play in Major League baseball.

7 — Final 1972 record of the Miami Dolphins, still the only fully undefeated NFL season.

8 — A “perfect” passer rating for a quarterback’s game. Stat is calculated using a player’s passing attempts, completions, yards, TDs and interceptions. NFL rates QBs from 0 to 158.3. College football uses a different formula and ranks from -731.6 to 1261.6. (Shrug.)

9 — Number of points Wilt Chamberlain scored in a single game in an NBA win over the Philadelphia Warriors, 169-147, on March 2, 1962. (Another key number: 20,000, the number of women he claims to have bedded.)

10 — Wayne Gretzky’s jersey number, the first ever to be retired league-wide by the NHL.

11 — Number of consecutive games played by the Oriole’s Cal Ripken to surpass Lou Gehrig’s 56-year-old record (2,130).

12 — Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 career major championships.

13 — Number of all-time wins by Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt, before retiring in 2012 due to dementia. She is the only coach in NCAA history, and one of three college coaches overall, with at least 1,000 victories.

Good Guys Do Finish First. Even if Overshadowed by the Worst.

Beamer, Benz or Bentley? Mazda.

Beamer, Benz or Bentley? Mazda.

So this week the Baltimore Ravens finally released Ray Rice for literally knocking the flipflops off his fiancée in a casino elevator (and TMZ became a reputable news outlet).

This after months of other NFL suspensions for pot, PED’s, and a little Percocet promenade by a team owner. NOT to mention Roger Goodell et. al. imposing sentences for these infractions that would give you whiplash (2 games-4 games-6 games-8, what don’t fans appreciate? Arbitrary penalties, that’s what.)

So for some relief, I asked my Facebook friends to tell me their favorite football players—no, any athletes—who demonstrate the good, honest, charitable side of sports–and just human nature. And they delivered (pro wrestlers! Woot!).

By the way, I’m focusing only on the fellas here, not because women athletes don’t have legal issues (Hope Solo, come on, honey), but it’s the gentlemen who have dominated the police blotters of late.

So here, in no order, are just a FEW gallant guys who are using their athletics platform (or just plain old good hearts) to make the world a place of shiny, happy people holding hands, not punching women with them:

Grapplers Giving Back
The longtime WWE favorite “Mankind,” Mick Foley, now donates hours lobbying against sexual assault with the group RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network). John Cena has granted more than 400 “wishes” for the Arizona Make-A-Wish Foundation, making him the current record holder.

Stop or I’ll Shaq!
Countless NBA players have or support charities—James, Jordan, Battier… But as the kid of a homicide detective, I find it quite touching that Shaquille O’Neal has applied to become a reserve police officer in Doral, Florida—a job he did once before in Miami 2005. That’s 7-1, 325 pounds of serving and protecting.

Feel-Good Football Players
I’ve written before about St. Louis’ Scott Wells and his three adopted Ugandan children. Now I have to give a nod to my Redskins, particularly Darrell Green, whose name was mentioned a LOT today. Not only an amazing athlete and Hall of Famer—maybe the best the nation’s capital has ever seen—but a true philanthropist, founding or supporting children’s charitable organizations, September 11 relief, education efforts and numerous boards and councils.

That said, I find running back Alfred Morris pretty awesome just for driving, still, his 1991 Mazda 626 that he bought for $2 from his pastor. OK it’s been fully restored, but it’s nice to see a player keepin’ it real.

Many friends like Holly Peterson Linder and Michelle Burstion Young pointed out not just one player but the entire Bengals organization not only for keeping defensive lineman Devon Still on the practice squad after being cut, but donating all proceeds from the sales of his jersey to pediatric cancer research. His daughter Leah is in Stage 4 with a 50-50 chance of survival. The good news is at this time his jersey is the highest selling Bengals jersey ever.

Don’t Mess With Widows
As for hockey, a classic name came up today. Mark Messier has served on a number of boards, including the New York Police and Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund, and the Tomorrow’s Children Fund, as well as helped bring more ice rinks to the city. The NHL created the Mark Messier Leadership Award in his honor.

But most important, says my friend H. Paul Brandes, “Leading the Rangers to their only Stanley Cup in my lifetime should be considered a charitable act in and of itself.”

Children’s Home…Runs
Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw received rousing votes today from Vin Scully cousin Patti Shea and others, and it’s easy to see why. He and wife Ellen raised money to build an orphanage in Zambia and he recently hosted a massive ping pong tournament on the field of Dodger stadium as an ongoing part of “Kershaw’s Challenge.” He has already received the Roberto Clemente Award and the Branch Rickey Award for his humanitarian work – Cy Young is probably next, for, you know, like garden variety pitching and stuff.

The Phillies’ Chase Utley and wife Jennifer work closely with animal causes like the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and encourage people to adopt pets, not buy.

The Rays’ Evan Longoria is a downright superhero here when he saves a reporter from a stray ball.

I also still love how the Mets’ Daniel Murphy missed opening day this year for the birth of his son, despite some announcers’….different (dumbass) views of paternity leave and C-sections.

And finally, my friend Jeff Jackson sums it up: “Real athletes don’t tell everyone the good things they do, they just do it! Derek Jeter!”

Yes indeed, Shortstop, Number 2, Derek Jeter. Number 2.

PS – some of the honorable mentions today: Tiger Woods; Ole Miss’ Deterrian Shackelford; Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf; Brandon Marshall; Russell Wilson; Warrick Dunn; Caron Butler; Andrew Luck; Mary Lou Retton; Joe Torre; Albert Pujols; Serena Williams; Ryan Zimmermann; Ted Williams; Stan Musial; Mario Lemieux; Jacob Tamme; Brett Keisel; Kenny Perry; Vincent Lacavalier; Brooks Laich; Nicklas Backstrom; and duh…OVIE!

FBS, BCS, WTF??? Frozen Cheese, a Flopping Foot, and How Hip Is My Mom?

1–Living in Washington DC, you get used to a lot of acronyms: CIA, POTUS, IRS, OMG the NSA sees my FB? But the government has nothing on football championship nomenclature.

Tonight, Auburn and Florida State face off in the “Football Bowl Subdivision” (FBS, previously NCAA “Division I-A” football) Bowl Championship Series (BCS) Championship Presented by Vizio, Dorito’s, Capital One and My Hairdresser. FBS championships are not actually sanctioned by the NCAA, but instead determined by a controversial ranking system (the BCS) and a whole lotta sponsorship money.

Dude, if you freeze to death at this game, it's not that hat I'll eat!

Dude, if you freeze to death at this game, it’s not that hat I’m gonna eat!

On Saturday, there was another Division-I NCAA college football championship between the “Football Championship Series” (FCS, traditionally known as “Division I-AA”) teams. After a month-long playoff tournament, finalist North Dakota State defeated Towson (Md.), 35-7 for the Bison’s third-straight national title. (By the way, Northwest Missouri State was the 2013 Division II winner, and Wisconsin-Whitewater won Division III.) FBS teams will adopt their own playoff system beginning in 2014,  producing what proponents argue will be a “true” champion. The new approach has its critics, but at least we can give the alphabet a little bit of a rest.

2–Green Bay is famous for many things—“Cheeseheads,” Vince Lombardi, the Lambeau Leap, and Butt. Cold. Football. Sunday wasn’t quite the 1967 “Ice Bowl” between Green Bay and Dallas, when the temperature was an all-time game low of minus-13. Pundits geeked out about the potential blizzard conditions all week for the nighttime NFC Wild Card match-up between Green Bay and San Francisco. And temps came close at a balmy 5 degrees. But in the end, the story actually became the game itself, which saw the 49ers top the Packers 23-20 after superb performances from quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers (newly returned from a broken collarbone) and San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick (who rushed for 98 yards to become the fifth-highest rushing quarterback in NFL history). Also advancing in this weekend’s playoffs: New Orleans, San Diego and Indianapolis.

3—With its crime, jobless rate, and bankruptcy that had the city seeking to sell off works of art, it’s rare Detroit has anything to celebrate. But Red Wing fans enjoyed the Winter Classic New Year’s Day, the NHL’s annual outdoor hockey game, despite losing to the Toronto Blue Jays, 3-2. At the University of Michigan’s “The Big House” stadium (where Michigan football usually plays), 105,000 people watched the teams battle each other and a steady snow that kept rink managers busy, skating back and forth between plays pushing shovels. During intermissions, fans enjoyed family activities, the introduction of the U.S. Women’s Olympic Hockey Team, and the Zac Brown Band.

4—Ronda Rousey retained her women’s bantamweight championship title, defeating Miesha Tate Saturday night in the second-ever women’s UFC Championship. It was the eighth consecutive victory for Rousey, a former Olympic judo medalist. After the bout, Rousey turned her back on her opponent’s handshake—the two also face off regularly on the reality show The Ultimate Fighter.

But it was the main men’s fight, a middleweight rematch between Chris Weidman and Anderson Silva, that stole the show (and had people grabbing for the nearest trash can). In the second round, the two men’s shins collided on simultaneous kicks, snapping Silva’s leg in half on live TV, with a result that resembled…um I don’t know…imagine you are wearing a long winter sock with the foot full of sand, and you are flopping it around in 360 degree circles. Weidman had handed Silva his first defeat in 17 bouts two months ago with a total knockout. Silva vows he will return to the ring.

(And of course, here’s the video. I used the Brazilian version so that maybe the Portuguese is a distraction from the carnage. No? Oh well.)

5–Speaking of gruesome breaks, just a quick tip of the hat to my mother Betsy, who fell and broke her hip the week before Christmas. A lifelong athlete, coach and a Senior Olympian who still holds records in track and field, she’s back home and on the mend–far sooner than she might have if not for making health and exercise such a priority in her daily life. We can’t change our genes or avoid freak accidents (in her case, tripping over the Geeksquad guy as she was hanging Christmas decorations), but we can prepare ourselves better for lifelong health by staying active through sports, the gym, or even just walking the dog (which isn’t so bad for him either!) Go Mom!

High 5 Headlines! Rose Wilts, Worries for Winston, and Puppy Snuggles Cost Me the BEST NFL GAME EVER!

chester

Football, or fuzzy kisses? Chester is the clear winner, no OT.

1) It is a testament to the snuggliness of my dog (and maybe some wine) that I fell asleep with him on the couch last night and missed the end of an incredible NFL comeback. Denver visited Boston and brought along many storylines: two of the best quarterbacks, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady squaring off again; Denver receiver Wes Welker returning to play his former Patriots for the first time, and coming off a concussion last week; and temperatures colder than polar bear poop. Denver led 24-0 at the half, but Tom Brady returned reborn in the second,  completing more than 80 percent of his passes to erase the deficit–that Manning shredded with one last touchdown, sending the game into OT. Boston won on a field goal 34-31. Brady inked his 38th career game with 3+ TD passes and no interceptions, the second-most all-time to–guess who–Peyton Manning (42).

2) By the way, the Patriots’ Bill Belichick isn’t the only coach in the family. His daughter Amanda, a Wesleyan University grad, is the head women’s lacrosse coach at Wesleyan, where Dad himself played lacrosse in the early 70s. Both Belichicks were captains of their teams as seniors.

3) That slapping sound you are hearing is Chicago NBA fans’ collective foreheads this week as Bulls star (aka Michael Jordan 2.0) Derrick Rose is once again out for the season, requiring surgery on a torn meniscus in his right knee. He missed last season after tearing the ACL in his left knee. Rose has been Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player, and an NBA All-Star, so his frustration must be only slightly worse than Adidas, who just launched his new shoe collection and “The Return of D Rose” campaign. (Or the frustration of Memphians like me, who had our national-runner-up 2008 season erased by the NCAA over allegations that Rose had someone else take his SATs for him. Sigh.) But Rose is only 25, having turned pro after just one year of college play (otherwise snarkily known as a “one and done”). Steve Nash (39, Lakers) and Manu Ginobli (36, San Antonio Spurs) are just a couple of superstar starters playing for super teams well into their 30s. And Chicago still has their NHL champion Blackhawks, currently among the top of the Western Conference.

4) The slapping sound you are still hearing is me. My forehead. Because it just couldn’t be a football season without a sexual assault case. Oh wait, my bad. Just before the season, a group of Vanderbilt players were indicted on counts of aggravated rape and sexual battery against a victim in a dorm room. (The case is ongoing and getting uglier). Now, Florida State quarterback and Heisman Trophy hopeful Jameis Winston is at the center of a potential rape charge stemming from an encounter in December 2012. Details are still unclear, but we at least know the following: 1, The victim reported the event a year ago and asserts it was not consensual. 2, The case was only referred to the Florida State Attorney General two weeks ago. 3, There is a DNA evidence match confirmed. 4, Some affidavits support Winston; others support the alleged victim. And 5, Winston is a redshirt freshman leading the Seminoles to their first potential championship since 1999. Whatever the outcome, we can hope whoever is telling the truth will see justice, and that the athletes of a storied program won’t see their hard work overshadowed by scandal. But I have to wonder if either will happen.

5) OK, let’s end on a funny note. If you missed it last weekend (and I did because I haven’t found “Saturday Night Live” reliably funny since 1982. Yeah, I said it. Except for episodes with Justin Timberlake, also from Memphis. Naturally.), SNL really did come through with a parody of “The Red Zone” channel. Each Sunday, Red Zone allows fans to see any potential NFL scoring play–when the ball is within 20 yards of the goal line, aka “the red zone.” (I must admit I do have this channel.) But if you’re not into sports, you now have “The Rosé Zone“–a women’s channel with all the best (worst?) reality TV moments without the charity benefits and fashion shows. As one “viewer” puts it, “B*tches be crazy. But not all the time. Sometimes b*tches just be standin’ around and thinkin’.” <cut to Kim Kardashian staring vacantly>. “And mama ain’t about that.” Hilarious.

Boston Strong, or Boston Wrong?

I'm going as a Sexy Flapper Vampire Showgirl (hey it was slim pickins' at Party City)

I’m going as a Sexy Flapper Vampire Showgirl (hey it was slim pickins’ at Party City)

Oh October, if it had arms I would hug it. Because in case you’ve been too busy buying your Sexy Nurse, Sexy Teacher, or Sexy TSA Agent (this really exists) Halloween costumes to notice, during these brief few weeks, pretty much every major American sport is playing (regular or at least pre-season) concurrently: pro football, hockey, and basketball, college football and basketball. And hmmmm, what’s the other one?

Oh yeah, pro baseball – tonight is the first game of the World Series, with Boston hosting St. Louis in the first of the best-of-seven-game “Fall Classic.” Boston is playing its 12th series—but St. Louis has won 11 series. However, Boston defeated St. Louis 4-0 in the historic 2004 series, the Sox’s first title since 1918, finally ending “The Curse of the Bambino” (when they sent Babe Ruth to the Yankees). The Sox won the series again in 2007; the Cardinals in 2011.

Here’s another fun fact: In 1971, the World Series had its first-ever full night game. Regular season MLB games had been played at night before, and World Series games had been completed at night, but Game 4 of the Orioles-Pirates series was the first scheduled nighttime event. Now all World Series games are at night—the last daytime game was Game 6 in 1987.

Now go forth and be annoying with your new knowledge! And tune in tonight to Fox at 8:07 p.m. ET for the first pitch.

Hockey Help for Southerners and Other Ice-Uninformed

I have a confession to make. I love sports, but hockey makes me feel like a kitten chasing a laser pointer. I’m from the South, y’all: ice is for popsicles, not pucks.

But I respect the game immensely. Goalies dropping into splits Prince would admire. Giant men skating 30 miles an hour, or what’s harder – stopping. Hockey skates don’t have toe picks like figure skates do. Unless you can turn and dig in at a sudden 90 degrees, you will, like myself, spin yourself into a centrifugal seizure.

Couples skate, anyone?  (Patrick Sharp)

Couples skate, anyone? (Patrick Sharp)

In other words, hockey is the only sport that makes me feel like…a girl.

On the other hand, did I mention the giant men? Hockey orthodontics have improved quite a bit since “Slapshot” (one of my Best Romantic Sports Movies), ladies, I suggest you pay attention. May I present Exhibit A, Patrick Sharp, a captain for the Chicago Blackhawks who face the Boston Bruins tonight in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup?

For other tips on tonight’s game, I turned to Washington DC’s First Family of Hockey, and my favorite Washington Capitals season seatmates, the Labres: Yvon, former Caps captain and defensive legend whose jersey graces the Verizon Center rafters, and his son Cory, hockey genius and awesome sports dad to girls and boys.

Watch on a large flatscreen, in HD. I myself only dumped my analog box a few months ago, so if you don’t have one, go to a local bar. You see more of the ice, and the puck and jersey numbers are sharper. With a little practice, you can see plays develop and anticipate what will happen next. But…

Don’t sit too close. If you’re not used to hockey, watching the close-ups make it hard to follow.

I like to pick one type of play or rule and watch for it. We all see goals, but when you recognize an assist, a penalty, or a power play, it builds your confidence and you can apply that knowledge to more complex action.

Go skating. OK it may be too late for tonight’s game, but there could be a Game 7. You are more likely to appreciate a sport’s difficulty if you try it at the local rink, diamond, or just in the backyard with the kids.

Watch with someone who (like my boyfriend) plays the game and (NOT like my boyfriend) can calmly explain things even when his beloved Blackhawks are on the ropes, and I tell him don’t give up, and he stomps off frustrated, and they wind up winning (again) in overtime anyway, and I just laugh and laugh and laugh…

Pick a player to focus on, like Sharp or “Patrick Kane, USA born, and he is on fire,” says Cory. “Such fast, great hands and he controls the game–when he has the puck, they can’t catch him or hit him.” For the Bruins, center Patrice Bergeron is their best guy – if he’s healthy enough to play tonight.

Above all, have fun (and for my fellow Southerners – two months to FOOTBALL!)