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Can You Hear Me, Major Tom?

18 November 2018

All told, this was not a great weekend for tUMD sports. On Friday, the volleyball team lost in the regional semi-finals, then women’s hockey lost to duhOSU, and then the men were shut out by Denver. Saturday, the football team lost their home playoff game, the women’s hockey team was swept, and the Wild blew a 2-0 lead, letting former Wild player Jason Pominville score the game winner with a minute and a half left – not a Bulldog game per se, but certainly a game that many Bulldogs fans watched and were disappointed by. (The good news for us here is that while Phil Housley may have won in Minnesota, his wife didn’t!)

So it’s understandable that most Bulldogs fans were in A Mood by the time the men’s hockey game began on Saturday evening. Obviously I was, since anyone who follows my Twitter feed knows that I am a glass case of emotion during hockey games. I imagine for some it’s a form of entertainment itself, watching my violent mood swings. tUMD hasn’t beaten Denver in awhile, they were shut out the night before despite reports that they were playing well, and with all the bad sporting news occurring over the weekend, I guess I started watching the game already in a black hole of despair. There’s really only one way to deal with that kind of attitude, and that’s with pessimistic, sarcastic, dark humor.

I’d like to point out that 4 of the 6 Yes votes came after tUMD had already scored a goal.

A couple things added to my general frustration/inability to enjoy the game that had nothing to do with the game itself. First, I was very hungry, which as we are all aware, leads to hanger. No, not like a coat hanger, that’s what Americans are going to need in order to exercise their right to reproductive freedom once the fascists in government fully execute their misogynistic plan. In this context, hanger = hunger + anger. And that shizz is real, people.

The second problem I was having was a technological problem. One of the serious downsides to moving away from Duluth was losing access to some of the various media forms I used to consume tUMD hockey. Specifically, local simulcasts and actual radio. There was no local simulcast this time, so I didn’t miss out on that, but the livestream I was forced to listen to started out several minutes behind the actual game. I understand there’s going to be a lag between the live game and any broadcast of the game – I often see a tweet about something happening in a Wild game many seconds before it is shown on the television. But there is at least a 2 minute delay between what happens in tUMD men’s hockey games live, and when it is broadcast on the internet stream. This is absurd.

Finally, there was a sub-problem to problem #2, one that I don’t normally experience but that cause a major issue last night. Multiple times during the broadcast, the game did not return from commercial break. The first time it happened, tUMD was already down 2-0, and Denver was going on the PP, because of course they are angels who never do anything wrong and simply sneezing near a DU player is going to result in a penalty. Never mind that the most egregious and destructive penalty I’ve ever seen live was committed by a Denver player… After enduring 8-9 minutes of commercials, the feed returned and went right into the intermission report. So I missed several minutes of actual game play. While I didn’t want the game to continue to lag farther and farther behind, I also didn’t like missing any of the action. There’s no point in staying off Twitter to avoid spoilers when I’m not going to get any of the action anyway. People had to suffer, deprived of my caustic wit, and for no earthly reason!

After it got to be 3-0, I decided to just give up and go all in on stupid jokes, GIFs, and mocking those less fortunate than me (Gopher football and their jejune head coach). Being unkind and snarky is endlessly enjoyable to me, because I am a small, sad person with a heart two sizes too small, and proud of it.

tv-christmas-specials-grinch-heart

It me.

Eventually things started to come back around for me. It was still 3-0, but there are certain points where I don’t care so much that an inflection point is reached, and I go from not caring to not not caring, which is not the same as caring. It’s difficult to explain, but I’ll illustrate with a tweet from last night:

What does this even mean? No one knows. I was actually looking for a gif of my fave, the Night King, because I was trolling Let’s Go DU, and I happened upon this one instead. There’s probably a German word for this feeling I experience from time to time, but the best I can say is it’s the feeling you get when you have absolutely nothing left to lose from supporting your team. I don’t know, some people feel like it’s a breach of fan etiquette to cheer for a team when they’re losing, like you’re supposed to file away quietly or switch to sheepishly complimenting the other team. If there’s one thing I do NOT like to do, it’s give credit to opposing teams when it is due. I will leave things like “sportspersonship” and “classiness” to the plebes.

Eventually Nick Swaney scored a goal, so I figured oh, tDogs got their requisite Goal In Denver, we can pack it in and go home satisfied. I suppose it helps that tUMD didn’t beat Denver in 5 tries last year on their way to winning a national championship. That puts things in perspective. Then Billy Exell scored and there was somehow still half a period to go!

The worst thing about the feed being behind during a game is the nagging feeling that in that gray area between the present and the moment in time the broadcast is in, the opponent has scored. This was intensified when Roehl took a penalty and I was sure Denver would score on the PP and dagger our hopes of a comeback. Of course it didn’t happen but it is a constant fear. Those readers from the early days of RWD, back before texting, recall that I used to have to work evenings during my career as a makeup counter jockey (a job I’m supposed to feel ashamed of, but do not, because it was a great job! and also because people shouldn’t be ashamed of their work unless it is unethical or illegal) and would have my father call me on the sales floor to give me score updates. So if tDogs were losing then, and the phone wasn’t ringing, that was basically torture – things have improved since then, but still. We Have The Technology. The feed doesn’t have to be so far behind.

This means that I didn’t get to celebrate the last second, game-tying goal from Scorin’ Scotty – partially because I was behind the internet celebration, and partially because I was spoiled on it by both Twitter and by my phone blowing up with texts from Dan of the Week. It was pretty exciting though! That’s part of what I like about this team so much – they may have off days, and their play may be frustrating to watch at times, but I never ever think it’s because they aren’t trying or doing their best (bests?). I don’t remember the last time I was ever annoyed with the level of effort being put out by members of the team. So it is really great to see that kind of character rewarded with crazy last minute shenanigan goals!

Then Bruce went to a commercial break, promising to come back in “90 seconds” with the overtime call.

And I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Commercial after commercial after commercial after commercial.

I finally gave up and went back to Twitter to see what was going on, and the game was already over. Cole Koepke, hometown hero, had scored less than a minute in, and tDogs had completed a comeback that will go down in history. It was about as dramatic as they come for a regular season game against a non-heated rival. According to Bruce, the last time tDogs overcame a deficit was in the 03-04 season, against CC, but the comeback had started earlier (also they won 5-3 and not in OT).

I’m happy about the outcome, but annoyed with the technical difficulties. I didn’t even get to hear the goal call until the postgame show replay, because the feed never actually played the OT. When it finally stopped playing commercials, the postgame show was on. I get that this is “free” and I am lucky and privileged to have internet and such, but at the same time, as a listener, I’m a product being sold to advertisers. “We have x people tuning in online,” etc. And hey, the advertisers sure got their money’s worth! So good for them.

Still. WHAT A COMEBACK. WHAT A TEAM. I was grinning all night about the game. It took a LOT of the sting out of the other losses on the weekend, and now that it’s over, of course I’m excited about how it played out. It may be agony in real time (or slightly delayed time), but that payoff is sweet. I love low-stakes, high-drama entertainment!

Nobody Likes Denver

16 November 2018

Many people get caught up in hating the Gophers, or the Effing Hawks, or Wisconsin, but I’d like to remind you that Denver is a very unlikable team. Exhibit A.

A typical Denver post-season experience: showing up to the NCHC tournament and winning in front of… the coaching staff and athletic trainers. What a thrill!

Just how unlikable is Denver? I’ll tell you. In 2017, the day of the national championship game, Biddy, Tim, and Kleiner went to a bar to watch a footy match. A British gentleman was there watching the match as well, and noted their maroon and gold attire. When he inquired as to tUMD’s opponent in the game, upon learning it was DU, he responded thusly:

“Denver? Fook Denver.”

Except he didn’t say “fook.” He didn’t even pronounce it “fook,” that’s just Dan of the Week’s poor attempt at a British accent. A side benefit of this is that now he and I have a way to swear on Skype for Business without having our conversations flagged for inappropriate content. Anyway, if a complete stranger, from another country, who likes another sport, knows how much Denver sucks, we know it’s true.

tUMD is, of course, the reigning national champion, but a little-known fact is that Denver is the 2017 national champion. They managed to eke out this win in front of a surprisingly large (for them) contingent of fans, but I know for a fact that these fans were paid operatives of former Let’s Go DU editor in chief, DG Goddard. I believe there were more UND fans cheering for Denver because they were mad at Neal Pionk than there were Denver “fans” in attendance. They also brought their band, seen here in this recent clip:

Despite having no fans, until recently having a Secret Skinhead as a coach, and generally being abhorrent, Denver has managed to go 10000000*-0-0 against tUMD in their last 10000000* games. This is a problem. It’s a total waste for a team with no fans to win a game! If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around, does anyone even care if it makes a sound? NO.

So, Bulldogs, it’s time to prey on St. Cloud’s sloppy seconds for the second week in a row, and bring a big sweepity sweep with you when you return to sea level*.

*  approximation

Minus the Black Bears

20 October 2018

tUMD 6, BSU 1/tUMD 2, BSU 0
tUMD 8, Maine 2/tUMD 3, Maine 2

I got this great idea for a post title thanks to a tweet from my favorite record store, Down in the Valley. But now I don’t know what else to say. Maine really sucked it up on Friday night, and so did Bemidji! That was great.

The games themselves, I can’t really comment on. I didn’t come up to Duluth this weekend! I’m very sad about this. It’s my own stupid fault, I signed up to do a race down here in the Cities and then I didn’t even do it! I went to bed super early and missed Justin Richards’ first Bulldog goal! I am officially terrible.

I missed a LOT of first goals actually! In addition to Richards’ first goal, I missed Koepke’s and Linser’s, too. And I missed Naomi Rogge having basically a natural hat trick, going from zero goals to FOUR GOALS this weekend — she scored the last two on Friday, including one with 0.1 seconds left, and the only two on Saturday. It’s about time tUMD stopped getting clogged up by Bemidji. And it was nice for Rooney to get a shutout.

One benefit of staying home this weekend was watching the Wild game on TV while listening to tUMD’s game. Stalock got the start, and while the beginning was somewhat unpleasant, Al really shined in the 3 on 3 OT. He is absolutely made for that kind of situation – so much space for him to play the puck, come waaaaaaay out of the net, and basically quarterback the play. He made two great stretch passes, the second of which was an assist on the game winning goal. I love seeing him on the Wild.

tUMD men play the Potato Farmers again next weekend, at the Golden Potato Farm, and the women are at St. Cloud, which should hopefully be another big sweepity sweep. The Potato Farmers just massacred the Red Cows, but I think UNO might just really suck, it’s unclear. It’s so hard to tell what’s a bad loss and what’s okay right now. Obviously all losses to Goofs are bad, because of course they suck. They’re the suckiest bunch of sucks who ever sucked.

Existential Dread

8 October 2018

Let’s set aside that tUMD went 0-2-1-1 against the rodentia this weekend for a moment, and talk about why this season isn’t as exciting as it should be. I haven’t done much to prep for the season, haven’t even looked at the schedule that much, and I’m going to be missing all the women’s games in the near future and I’m skipping the next men’s home series (and I almost missed Saturday’s game! I wasn’t going to go til I figured out we’d be raising the banner).

tUMD women had a great weekend last weekend, sweeping Boston College, and so that got me a bit more engaged in the season. I made a tough decision to forego my women’s season tickets this year, since I won’t be able to attend enough games to make it financially feasible — and then my plan for getting my women’s hockey fix was thwarted. We’ll talk about that later.

I did get a bit more excited for this weekend’s games because I had a fun idea on how to kick off the weekend:

There’s nothing I love more than a good sign. This took about 15 takes btw.

I figured out what was wrong at about 10:00 PM on Saturday night, as we turned our car onto I-35 south. I don’t live in Duluth anymore.

I don’t live 10 minutes from the arena anymore. I don’t get home before the postgame show is over. (Okay that never happened because of traffic, but still.) I have to choose between a relaxing weekend at home, sleeping in my own bed and seeing tUMD play. I have to fight road construction and weekend traffic to get to games on time (ha) on Fridays. I have to put hundreds of miles on my car and spend hundreds more on gas just to see home games.

The luxury of spending the last five years living in Duluth after a decade of commuting to games from the Twin Cities was never lost on me. I was always appreciative of the convenience (even if I wasn’t always on time). But now that I don’t have the privilege anymore, I feel it keenly in my soul. I haven’t just lost the convenience, I’ve lost the community.

There’s something about living in a town where what seems like the whole city is behind the team. The Dogs were on the local news all the time. The players and coaches were out in the community. I saw my colleagues and neighbors at games. I saw Bulldog gear and paraphernalia on people and places every day. I had a free place to park. I could go to weekday events, like the locker room tour or the runner-up and championship celebrations (ok I went to the championship thing but still, had to drive) or season ticket seat selection. I am no longer part of the zeitgeist.

I am sure eventually I will get used to it again (and things have changed, as I no longer have to couch surf or pony up for a hotel), but just thinking about all those long drives made me tired, and made Bulldog fandom almost seem like a burden.

Peter Krieger’s goal and Maddie Rooney’s shootout saves lifted that burden a bit. Bring on the miles, bring on the late nights, bring on the fifteenth season of Runnin’ with the Dogs!

This Is Not My Beautiful House

20 June 2018

Today, Amsoil Arena, the beautiful rink that houses our favorite Bulldog hockey teams, that honors our greatest players, that hosted many of our warmest hockey memories, is going to host a fascist rally.

Our six national championship banners (the seventh will be raised in October) will hang from the rafters while people I probably sit next to at hockey games, people who might even read this blog, mindlessly chant anti-democratic slogans and cheer like trained seals at vile, racist statements from the minority-elected president.

I can’t stomach the thought of seeing my favorite city and my favorite arena serve as a backdrop for a horde of racists, frothing at the mouth as their empty eyes gaze up at a tyrant in rapture and adoration. And these people won’t be strangers. They will be my colleagues, my former neighbors, the people behind me in line to see the national championship trophy. Lining up to listen to lies and filth from a megalomaniac, in the building where Olympic gold medalists like Haley Irwin, Sidney Morin and Maddie Rooney played (and will return to play), where Mike Connolly thrilled us with five goals against the Gophers, where Lara Stalder dazzled us by taking over game after game after game, where some random guy won $50,000 scoring from the opposite end of the rink. It’s nauseating to consider.

This arena wasn’t built to house hatred and bigotry. It wasn’t constructed to host a man who is ripping toddlers from their parents as they flee violence and poverty, housing them in internment camps and tent cities. Amsoil Arena wasn’t LEED certified so an orange blowhard despot who employs a criminal as head of the EPA could get his rocks off in front of a crowd.

If you’re forced to attend this tragic circus because you work at the DECC, or you’re a city official, or you’re in the press, I am sorry, and I worry for your safety. Especially if you’re in the media – this president encourages the zombies who worship him to harass the media. Then probably goes and wipes his ass with the Constitution.

If you choose to attend this rally of your own free will because you think this president is great, get the hell out of my beautiful house.

Following Up

27 April 2018

A quick update on my poster status: I have one! And it’s signed!

I was, you might say, VERY unhappy about the poster shortage at the National Championship celebration event (OMG THAT’S RIGHT UMD MEN WON THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP!!!!!!!!!! I get excited anew just thinking about it). I endured a long drive, a long line, and what ended up being a semi-long illness only to find out I was going to have to awkwardly go through the autograph line empty-handed.

I complained on Twitter, and it worked! I have a poster! Josh, the athletic director (the REAL AD, not the fake assistant AD who was rude to me) and Brian, one of the assistant ADs, acknowledged the situation and offered a solution: if I emailed them with my address, I could get a poster when they printed more.

I’m not in customer service anymore per se (although we all gotta serve somebody), but this one-two punch is going to solve almost every customer service issue on the planet, unless the customer is completely unreasonable, the service provider is acting in bad faith, or something really, really, really bad and irreversible happened. Acknowledge the customer’s frustration and provide a remedy. I mean, I am a somewhat unreasonable person and I was not only placated but motivated to share this as a positive situation. Yes it’s almost two weeks later but let’s be real: ain’t nobody reading this blog no more – I shared it on Twitter right away.

Anyway, I was okay with this solution – at least I’d get a poster. What I didn’t expect is they would provide a signed poster in a media envelope with cardboard to protect it from bending or folding. I was pretty excited to receive almost exactly what I was hoping for in the first place, with the exception of one thing: Blake Young didn’t get the chance to sign “play your balls off” on my poster. A tragedy, for sure.

This is sort of an embarrassing amount of time to spend talking about something so inconsequential – it’s a freaking poster with writing on it – but I try not to dwell too hard on these things because I’d start questioning almost everything I do. Like, there are real problems in the world, why would I wait in line for two hours just to talk to a bunch of college men who use a composite stick to put a rubber disc in a metal and twine* — OH MY GOD STOP.

*shoutout to LGDU

The Long and Winding Road

11 April 2018

I wasn’t quite ready to finish celebrating the national championship, so I decided to drive up to the celebration on Tuesday evening. Even though this was a very environmentally irresponsible decision, the Aaaahj and I drove up with Biddy and Kleiner, so the carpool made it a more reasonable decision. Plus the company couldn’t be beat. Many Simpsons quotations were said.

We arrived in Duluth at 5 PM, so we had plenty of time to fart around before the main event. Unfortunately, I felt like hot garbage. I have some kind of mini-influenza going on – aches, chills, fatigue – and realized upon arrival that I should have stayed home. But it was my last chance to see some of the seniors, and I wanted another signed poster. FORESHADOWING!

This was my first time in Duluth since I moved, which was bittersweet and way too brief. I was welcomed back with some snow. I think I need to move to Dubai.

Because we were so early, we decided to get in line to take photos with the trophy. Biddy and Kleiner had already gotten more, um, candid photos with the trophy, but I hadn’t gotten any quality time with it yet. I probably should have sat down, since I was feeling completely out of it, but was trying to fake it till I made it rather than succumbing to my illness. The line moved fairly quickly, and we were all able to get pix. In 2011, I picked the trophy up and made out with it, but that didn’t seem… acceptable this year. They had a staffer there taking the photos for people, and no one ahead of me seemed to be picking either of them up, so I toned it down.

trophymeme2

We sat down to wait for the ceremony to start, and people-watched. The band came in and played a few songs, and then Howie got up and spoke for a bit before introducing the team. They all filed out in their nice polos, and for some reason Kobe Roth and his crutches were right in the middle, so he held everyone up.

Now I’ve forgotten a lot of what happened during the actual presentation. They showed the intro video, then Howie talked a bit more, then the mayor proclaimed it Bulldog Hockey Victory Day or something. (In 2011, Mayor Ness proclaimed it Jack Connolly Day, but I guess since Kuhlman is from Esko, it could not be Karson Kuhlman Day.) Sandy came up, put on his readers, and gave a nice “F*ck the Haters” speech. (Okay it wasn’t really that, but he did have a nice pointed jab at the media for being doubters. I mean okay yes a lot of people were doubters but you know, Sandy, you did lose to Alberta.) Kuhlman got up and said a few things, and then we watched a video of the playoff run. Jack Connolly was on hand for some reason. That reason was not revealed to us. Also it was not revealed to us why he was dressed in dark clothing with a knit cap, as if he was going to rob the place later.

That was all fun and games, but stuff was about to get real. In 2011, they set up the autograph table in the concourse on the end with the windows, and then the line snaked around the concourse. I was at the very end of that line, and waited 3.5 hours to tell Christian Gaffy that my hair was breaking off. I did not use that 3.5 hours to think of intelligent things to say. Although last year I went to the runners-up celebration and Dan of the Week and I got up to Tufte and Dan said “I went to Blaine,” and then we all stood there awkwardly, so this problem is not limited to me.

This year the autograph table was set up on the floor in front of the benches, and people lined up before the ceremony started, so they wouldn’t have to wait. At the end of the ceremony, the line had grown and was headed off the floor and up the stairs. We got up and joined the back of that line, because that was clearly the line. However, many people seemed to think that wasn’t actually the line. A couple hundred people decided they could just make a new line, like some kind of zipper merge situation, and no one from tUMD did anything about it. The line also seemed to get fatter than it had been at the start, and was 3 or 4 people wide on the floor, when it had been 1 or 2 people wide before. So there was rampant budging going on unchecked. We ended up not moving more than a foot for like 30 minutes. That was partially because Karson Kuhlman didn’t join the autograph line until people had already started going through, which was holding things up. He was probably off giving an interview or something, but come on, people! Media get plenty of access to players – fans rarely get an opportunity for a meet and greet.

An hour or so later, when we finally reached the bottom of the stairs, Bruce Ciskie came over to chat with us for a little while. We discussed what national championship gear we would be purchasing. I put in my order today (sweatshirt, gold t-shirt, puck, and pin); Bruce is still unsure.

Apparently I should have purchased something on Tuesday, because an hour later, when we finally were getting close to the front of the line, an athletic department staffer came through the line and informed us they were likely to run out of posters.

tenor

Yeah I was not really happy, considering the crowd control issues, the long drive, the long wait, and my influenza/consumption/vapors. I hate being such a rule follower! Why couldn’t I have also budged? Apparently there were no consequences! As we got closer to the front of the line, we saw the stack of posters dwindling. Some people in line had other things to get signed, others already had posters (they handed them out in advance, which could have been part of the problem, if people were taking stacks), but the stack still got down to zero with about 20-25 people in front of us.

I politely (yes actually politely) but assertively expressed my displeasure with the crowd control issues to Jay Finnerty, Associate Athletic Director for Revenue and Special Projects. He had been strutting around the table all evening, so it certainly took me as a surprise when he quite rudely said he didn’t have any idea what I was talking about, and when I told him a couple hundred people had cut the line and now they were out of posters, he just walked away.

Look, I don’t give thousands of dollars to the athletic department (and when I’m in a position to donate thousands of dollars somewhere, it’ll be to food-based charities or abortion providers), so I realize that no one needs to kiss my ring, but it seems like one of the basic tenets of customer service is not to sneer at the customer and walk away without even acknowledging there was a problem. So that made me even more annoyed. I mean, I’m an alumna, I’m a multi-sport season ticket holder, and I’m a dedicated fan. Maybe it wouldn’t cost you anything to just acknowledge there was a problem.

Fortunately the actual athletic director and Brian, another assistant DA, came to the rescue. The were contrite, acknowledged there was a problem, and they provided a solution – I could email the athletic department and they would mail me a poster! I thought a better solution would be to give me a game worn jersey, but it’s not meant to be.

We all decided we were going to go through the line anyway. Kleiner had a flag he wanted signed, and Biddy was getting Rachel’s flag signed, although she only needed two signatures, since she’d gotten the rest last Friday. I had absolutely nothing on me that could be signed, and neither did the Aaaahj, plus I was too cranky to go buy something to take the place of the free thing. Even though, yes, I just spent $100 on stuff today. Still. It was the principle.

So, going through the line with nothing is EXTREMELY AWKWARD. Wow. I mean, it’s bad enough going through the line being me, but going through the line being me and having nothing to autograph when the ostensible purpose of going through the line is to receive autographs is just off the charts awk. Since they’d been signing autographs for two hours at that point, they were all kind of zoned out (although they did get pizza – I considered asking them to sign a pizza box) and kind of looking down the line for the next poster to sign. So then when I had nothing to sign, I ended up kind of standing there with nothing to say and no eye contact. It wasn’t a great situation.

Highlights:

  • I told Perunovich his mom’s jersey is amazing
  • We told Bender he had the best name on the team and that we love Futurama
  • I lamented that I had nothing that Blake Young could sign “play your balls off” on
  • I teased Justin Richards about getting kicked out of the final faceoff
  • I had a nice chat with Ben Patt about his video board stuff during the Frozen Four – he was so funny!
  • Biddy had Matt Anderson and Nick Swaney sign Rachel’s flag, and no one else (since she had all the other signatures), which was hilarious since it made it look like those were the only 2 players who mattered

So now the season is finally over for me, and I can relax in the off-season, or at least turn my focus to the Wild’s playoff “run,” short as it may be. These 6+ month seasons are starting to become routine, but they can be draining, even for a fan!

As always, thanks for reading RWD and sharing the crazy ups and downs of the season with me. It’s been a crazy journey and I’m glad we could take it together.