Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Capitals Fail Again*

(This post is a departure from my usual subject matter.  If you do not at least like hockey, the Washington Capitals, and/or the bloggosphere that surrounds said team, you may want to skip this post.  I won't blame you.  Much.  Regular content will return with the next post, which should be tomorrow.)

In my head he's "Uncle Ted."
I've been a Caps season ticket holder since they moved into DC itself, trading the old comfort of Maryland's USAir Arena (formerly Capital Centre, since demolished and rebuilt as a strip mall) for the new luster of the MCI Center (now the Verizon Center).  Many things come along with my tickets each year.  There's usually a "meet the team" party at some point during the season, often I'll get a team jacket/jersey, perhaps a print (framed or not), bobbleheads, signed stick or mini jersey, the list goes on and on.  A few years ago I started getting something new: Q & A sessions, referred to as "Chalk Talks," with people connected to the team.  Past chalk-talkers include the Caps General Manager George McPhee, current and former broadcasters, retired players, you get the idea.

Tonight's speaker was the Caps majority owner, Ted Leonsis.  I'll state here, up front, that I love Ted (in a manly way, the way a die-hard fan loves the owner of the team.)  It takes very little encouragement to get me to speak about him in glowing terms to anyone that will listen.  He is, in my experience, a warm and approachable person who has a genuine love for the teams he owns (at least the Caps, I can't really speak to the Bullets Wizards or Mystics,) who makes time to shake hands and talk with the fans who cheer his teams on.  I write all this at the beginning of the post for two reasons.  First, so you'll know that I have an admitted bias.  Second, so that you'll understand my motivations for writing this post.

At one point during the Chalk Talk, Ted said something along the lines of "I'm sure someone out there will blog about this with the title 'Capitals Fail Again.'"

Now, a little context.  Earlier in the session someone had a question, more of a comment really, about the shifting demographics of the crowd on any given night.  As the Caps have had more success on the ice, they've also had more success putting butts in seats.  I'll spare you all the joke told by many, many of the players and coaches, who were here any time from roughly 2002 to 2009, about how many people came to the games dressed as purple seats.  Less seats are visible now, ranging from some on weekday games against...unappealing opponents (looking at you, Columbus) to wall-to-wall red for the playoffs.  Fortunes have changed for the Caps, and with those changes come new fans.  Also, new "fans."  Some of these new attendees are business men, out to impress potential clients with the town's hot ticket, nice and close to the action, a few rows off the glass.

To put it mildly, these people are not there to watch hockey.  They're there to see who else is there, point to the celebrities in the crowd, yell into their cell phones, stand and wave at other people yelling into their cell phones on the other side of the arena.  While I think people who go to a game should actually watch said game, this is a free, Capitalistic country where you can do most anything you want with something that you buy, including tickets to a hockey game.  Recalling that there was a comment about these new additions to the game, the commenter said it would be great if the Caps would run the PSAs about how to behave while at a game more often.  Ted asked one of his helper-bees to do make it happen, that night, starting perhaps 45 minutes from that very moment.  How's that for customer service?  Do you see why I like this guy so much?

More seats out of frame.  It was standing room only by the end.
Unfortunately it was not to be.  Later in the session Ted told us that the video schedule was too tight, they couldn't get the PSAs in that night, but they'd be there for the next game.  Then he asked the crowd how many bloggers were present.  I was one of perhaps a half-dozen, a number much lower than I expected.  Ted talked for a minute about how quickly information travels these days, how our inter-connected world means he has to be careful about what he says wherever he is, even in informal settings like the Chalk Talks, because you never know who is listening for who.  Apparently there are certain bloggers out there who want to know what goes on at these sorts of gatherings, a sentiment echoed by the notoriously poker-faced McPhee at the Capitals Convention this year.  This is when Ted said he expected someone to make a "Caps Fail Again" post, relating the story about their failure to put in the PSAs that very night on a short turn-around.  It was an obvious joke, delivered and received as such, but it did get me wondering a bit.

The Caps have been an industry leader in bringing bloggers into the fold.  There are more Caps-centric blogs out there than I can count.  I keep one of my favorites on the side bar, just to the right of this very post, and took inspiration from another for the name of my own blog.  The press box at Verizon center is filled with bloggers on any given night, and those same bloggers have an amount of access to the team that makes me more than a little jealous.  Thus, when Ted took a small, tongue-in-cheek jab at the bloggers, I was a little surprised considering the organization's acceptance of those same bloggers.

The slinger of the "wicked pixels."
But there is one "blog" in particular that stands out here, that has been having an entertaining exchange of words over the last couple of weeks.  I don't really categorize it as a blog since it's part of the Washington Post.  I mean, of course, the DC Sports Bog (Bog and not Blog, this is not a typo.) by one Dan "Wicked Pixels" Steinberg.  I'll say here that I enjoy the Bog very much, especially since it has a tone that is similar to the one I employ myself on this blog.  The Bog is an irreverent look at DC sports, notably their mistakes, as well as reporting on the reporters who report on DC sports.  Steinberg has chronicled the Natinals (again, no typo), the McNabb fiasco, the Haynesworth Conditioning-test-gate debacle, and various fights across radio, TV, and the Internet.  He does, on occasion, write about actual news as well.

As you might imagine, given the Wizards...difficult start to the season, there's been a lot of content about the team you used to know as the Bullets.  As you might also imagine, this hasn't sat too well with Ted.  Thus a small verbal (textual) scuffle has been going for the last little while, which has entertained this author to no end.  This post is about picking up a ball that Ted threw earlier tonight and running with it in a (hopefully) unexpected direction, not about throwing fuel on any fires that may or may not be raging.  If I get to see some more fireworks, and perhaps a spike in traffic from new sources, then so much the better.  Mostly I'd like to see two of my favorite DC sports personalities bury the hatchet and play nice, and if I can help that process along by poking a bit of fun at those involved then I'll consider it a job well done.  Furthermore, if I can report on the reporter who reports on the reporters who report on the guys I watch on the ice/diamond/turf, then I'll have fulfilled my meta quotient for the rest of the year in one post.

Speaking of jobs well done, I'd love to do this as a living, or at least as a source of income.  If you're reading this Ted, and I hope you do, Vogel isn't getting any younger.  He has a lot on his plate between all the podcasts, videos, and assorted writings he does.  I can ease the load a bit.  I have a BA in English that I'd love to put to use.  If you're reading this Dan, I'm sure we can work something out.  Transcribing all those interviews has to be time consuming.  I already consume a lot of DC sports media, it'd be great if I could put that to a more lucrative end.

Kidding about Vogel, he does great.  Serious about working though.  Consider this my writing sample.

* - The Caps didn't fail at all tonight.  Despite being down three of their best players and facing one of, if not the, best teams in the league, they put forth one of their more inspiring performances tonight and got the win, 5-3, to retake the Southeast division lead and get a (slightly) firmer grip on a playoff spot.  Great effort tonight guys, keep it up and I'll be seeing hockey in DC after the first week in April.

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