Crosby’s Early Christmas Nutcracker

On December 18th this happened:

Now let me first say that I think this is kind of hilarious. Sure, I wouldn’t be laughing if it was me getting nailed in the gonads, but it isn’t me getting nailed in the gonads so I can laugh a little bit. This is what’s called taking pleasure in the pain of the others. There is a single word to describe this term, but it has been way way way way way way waaaaaaaaaaay overused so I refuse brevity and write the old cliche instead of the new one.

Anyway…

While I do find the nut-punching pretty funny (along with the slow motion voices and dude giving the press conference) I find it somewhat disturbing that Crosby only got s two minute penalty out of the deal. Seriously, two minutes for sandbagging someone? That seems a little weak, especially when you get five minutes for punching someone in the chest or face. But he got two minutes, when he should have gotten at least five or maybe more. He probably should have been ejected from the game for misconduct. As the man says, this is embarrassing, if funny.

What’s more embarrassing, though, is the inconsistency of the NHL in handing out punishments. I know Sidney Crosby is the face and future of the league, or at least that’s how they are billing him, but that should not mean that he is entitled to special treatment. In fact, it seems to me that the league is not talking about this because they just want it to go away. They do not want to draw out this incident, which is embarrassing for their star, but also for the league itself. I am not a Crosby Hater, nor do I love him. He has talent, no doubt, and passion, and is exciting enough to bring more casual fans into the sport.

All that said, Crosby hit a dude in the nuts, a couple of times, in a hockey scrum. He saw the opportunity to get a cheap shot in and took it. I understand that this is hockey, but that means when one is caught dishing out a cheap shot one gets punished with some quality box time and possibly suspension of play for two or more games. The league probably should have done something in response to this, if just to maintain their integrity and consistency. Athletes need consistency, ask any semi or professional player/coach and they will tell you that the ability to be consistent is the most important ability in all of sports. By being inconsistent in how they are handing out punishments, NHL officials are sending a message to the players and coaches that says: we will arbitrarily enforce whichever arbitrary rules we wish when it suits us.

I also find it funny that Sean Avery lost his job and got suspended over a self-called media conference and a less than respectful comment concerning his ex girlfriend and her new beau. Granted, punching someone in the nuts and making an offensive to some statement are not the same at all, and Avery is a known agitator and general douche-bag. However, the fact that Avery is a bad guy with a bad attitude does not mean that he should be punished any differently than another player like, say, Sidney Crosby, who is seen as respectable and an asset to the league. I do not want to get into conspiracies here, but it seems to me that the NHL, in the case of Crosby and Avery anyway, punished based on reputation rather than on the crime itself.

I do not necessarily think that Crosby should be suspended for six games, nor should he lose his job, but I do think that he should be suspended for a game or two. That behavior is uncool, and it only has the potential to get worse. I do not mean Crosby specifically, but throughout the league in general. If players see that they can nail a dude in the gonads and only get two minutes, then I expect a lot more of this type of stuff  is going to happen. On the other hand, if the league cracks down on others who does this, then they will have shown themselves to be nothing more than hypocrites and run the risk of poor player/league officials relations as well as poor fans/league relations. If the players and fans feel that the league and the refs favor some players over others then hockey is in trouble of losing out to its own double standards.

I know Crosby will not get punished for this–it’s almost been a week and Christmas is tomorrow so I really doubt this is a big concern of the league offices, and it is a shame that the NHL is going to be so inconsistent in how they handle unsportsmanlike conduct. If Crosby is going to be the face of the league, then the league needs to make sure that he and they are putting forth the right face. Does the NHL want to be known as someone who nails other dudes in the testicles without fear of any real punishment? Is that the symbol/image they are trying to convey? If that is the case, then they should by all means leave this alone and let it go away, but if (as they have said on countless occasions) they want to make their game more accessible to non-hockey/casual fans then they should stand up, take action, and provide the comforting atomosphere of consistency so that all players, coaches, and spectators and know what the rules are and how they will be used.

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Humbled

The Sharks lost to the Detroit Redwings last night (rejoice Adrienne and Dmarks, but don’t get cocky, this was a fluke) and they lost big: 6-0. This was their second loss in two games so that is a bit disappointing. Still, it is probably good that they lost this one because that means that they know they have some work to do and that the one opponent that can derail their bid for the cup is ruthless and ready. I am sad this happened, but I am glad it happened in December. The Sharks now have plenty of time to adjust and work out the few remaining kinks in their system and get ready for the next time.

More worrisome is the two straight losses. Sure this will happen to any team at any point in any given season, but it is not pleasant. Now is the time for the Sharks to show some resilience and get back on the winning side of things.

That is all.

Feeling the Love

So since I was mugged, the people here at the University have gone out of their way to make me feel comfortable and okay, as have my friends and family. I thank them for this, and accept it with gratitude and graciousness. The people here, fellow colleagues and some students, seem to be embarrassed by the behavior of their countrymen and don’t want me to think less of them and the Czech Republic as a whole. I want to be clear about this:

I harbor no ill will toward the Czech Republic or its people. I do, however, harbor some resentment towards the ones who attacked me. I understand that things like this can and do happen anywhere, and just because they happened to me in a foreign country does not mean that it is the country’s fault. Nor is it the fact that I am an American, as some people have suggested. My attackers didn’t care about nationality, what they did care about was getting my possessions. This is a common trait to thieves and robbers everywhere. Sure, you are an easier target if you are a foreigner because you (like me) may not be able to understand the language, but I have met Czechs who have been the victims of similar crimes, which allows me to be pretty damn sure when I say that it was not because I am an American. These punks were drunk and looking to make trouble as well as deprive someone of their possessions. I just happened to be there in the wrong place at the wrong time (for me anyway). And the police said that the folks that attacked me are gypsies so I fully believe that they were just waiting for someone, anyone, to happen by and in this case that just happened to be me.

I am trying not to dwell on the attack. That is a waste of energy and time and it will do no good. My nose was broken and my passport and camera were stolen. Those are unchangeable facts and thinking about what I could have done differently is an excercise in futility. Thinking about what I can do differently in the future is more constructive and productive, so that is what I am focusing on. I was a victim, but I refuse to feel like a victim or wallow in my misery. I did that on Sunday, and I am over it. My face still hurts, my eyes have a nice ring of red around them and my nose is still broken. Oh well, life goes on.

Back to the niceness of the people around me. Many people have apologized for what happened even though it is not their fault (but that’s what we say when something terrible happens to people we know; it’s lame but it’s true). One of my students brought me a box of choclates as a get well gift (I had already assigned her grade so this was not an attempt at bribery disguised as a gift) which was terribly thoughtful, nice, and unnecessary. My colleague Zuzana brouhgt me some genuine home made Czech potato soup, and it was delicious. I have been eating it all week.

Another one of my students wanted to know what my Christmas plans were, and when I told her that I didn’t really have any she suggested that I spend it with her and her family, if her parents said it was okay. I got an email from her yesterday saying that her parents said it was okay, so now I will be experiencing a traditional Czech Christmas with one of my students and her family. Apparently this is a big deal because Czech Christmases are usually limited to family only–no visitors are generally allowed unless they are blood or in laws. I feel honored, a little taken aback, and a little scared; there will be only a few English speakers there so it will be interesting to say the least. Still, I am grateful that she invited me as I will get to experience a different kind of Christmas than the one I am used to–they celebrate it on the 24th and Carp and potato salad are the traditional dishes served.

I will try to get a picture of my new face posted in the next few days before it goes away just so all you folkls out there can see. It is better today and with any luck the swelling and bruises will be gone within the week. I am not holding my breath for it, but I am hoping that they will be gone by the 24th so I can meet my student’s family without looking like a ghoul or some kind of Halloween reject.

Oh, I forgot, I got my passport back, so that’s good. But, the police had already reported it stolen so now it’s invalid and that is bad. I’ve been trying to call the US embassy in Prague, but they have not been answering the phone. I’m a bit worried because I do not know how much it will cost to replace the passport, nor do I know how long it will take. Just a little more icing on the cake that is this stupid incident.

CHP and the Military: One step closer to Martial Law

Apparently the California Highway Patrol will be working with members of the Marines (as in the member of the armed forces Marines–the few the proud the brave) Military Police in the San Bernadino Valley of California during the holiday season. This cooperation started ion December 12th and will last until the New Year. The two agencies will be manning DUI checkpoints in an attempt to crack down on drunk drivers and other criminal activities.

Okay, I understand that the holidays are prime time for drinking and driving. There are a lot of parties and as well as a lot of people on the road. I get that the cops would want to make sure people are safe, and while I may not agree with them, DUI checkpoints can help make this happen. However, I do not understand why the Marines have to be there. In fact, to me this seems like a direct violation of the Posse Comitus Act, which restricts and prohibits the use of military personnel for the use of law enforcement. I also wonder in what capacity the Marines will be used. Will they be armed? Will they be making arrests alongside the CHP?–THAT would be a major Constitutional violation. Are they there just to supervise and train? If that is the case, what are they doing there at all as I pay taxes so that CHP officers and receive their training and guidance from their own people, not folks outside of their organization, and certainly not on the spot training.

The Marines have said that they will not be acting in conjunction with the CHP, but that they will be at these checkpoints to take care of their own who happen to be stopped. Okay, fine, I get that–military personnel are subject to a different set of governances than civilians–but if the CHP were to arrest a Marine, why couldn’t they just call the MP? Why does the MP have to be stationed at the checkpoint, inspiring fear and mistrust among law abiding and not so law abiding citizens.

Military Police at DUI checkpoints may seem like a small thing, and maybe even a good idea, but the truth is it is neither. It is a bad idea because it sets a precedent that military forces can be used to police American citizens (if any branch of the military has this duty it is the National Guard, and then only when dire circumstances warrant it), and it gets Americans used to the idea that this is okay, which means that if it starts happening more often we will not notice it. Things like this always start small, but they do start somewhere, and they grow into bigger monstrosities that are much harder to stop. I do not want to say that this is the first step toward the inevitability of Martial Law, but it is a first step toward that enemy free thinkers and speakers everywhere. Couple this with the fact that there is a military brigade now devoted soley to dealing with crisis on American home soil and we can see the continuation of a disturbing trend that started with the Patriot Act and the loss of some of our freedoms.

MPs at DUI checkpoints does not mean Martial Law, this is true, but it does mean that someone/or some persons in our government/military thinks that this behavior is acceptable, and unless the people of California, and the US, do something about it, they will continue to think that way. What can we do? Well, we can write letters to newspapers and magazines. We can write our State Senators and our State Representatives. We can protest in the street and inform our friends and neighbors. Our biggest enemies in stopping this military invasion into our civic lives are silence and complacency. Now is not the time to be silent or complacent. Now is the time to shout and scream. Be heard and make some changes–we just elected a man whose whole campaign was based on that idea. It is time that we, the people and citizens of the United States of America put our money (what little of it is left) where our mnouths are and make that change happen. Obama can’t or won’t do it on his own, he needs us to guide him and to show him what we care about. Otherwise all this talk of change will be for naught and soon we will have soldiers patrolling our streets. Or worse: Blackwater Mercenaries.

Don’t go out at night.

That was the lesson I learned tonight after three adolescents–probaly around 17 years old–mugged me. The broke my nose, and took my backpack that had my passport, my house key, and my bank card in it, along with my new digital camera. It sucks that the camera was in the bag, and that my nose got busted, but I am most concerned about the passport and the bank card. It is truly a frustrating and stupid thing to have happened–the worst part is that I did not do anything to antagonize them. I was just walking down the street, they asked me if I had a cigarrette, I told them no (cause I didn’t) and then they jumped me. I tried to fight back but was unable to. They tore my bag off me and with blood running down my nose, I dashed into the closest bar. Once there I was rushed into the bathroom where I put a cold compress on my nose. The police were called and they soon showed up. Then I had to talk to them for like half an hour on the street. Then they took me to the station where I had talk with them some more, which was not easy cause their english is bad and my Czech is non-existent.

After the station they took me to the hospital where I had an x-ray. That was when they told me what I already knew: my nose was broke. Then back to the station to answer more questions. They had found my backpack, but no sign of the passport or the camera. Also my room key was in my wallet, and none of my friends are at the dorms where I live this weekend so I cannot go home. That is why I am in my office writing on the internet after this; it was not my first choice, but I knew I could get in here. Now I have to stay awake for 5 more hours because I have to talk to the cops again at 9 in the morning for some reason. I am a little spooked, a little frustrated, and very sore.

Will post updates on the situation as I find out more.

Hockey in Liberec

Ever since I got to the CZ I have wanted to go to an ice hockey match. The Czechs have a love of hockey, second only to that of their love for football (soccer), and since I am not a big soccer fan I wanted to experience their second favorite sports pasttime. Last night, I finally got the opportunity to do so because Liberec has a local team and they were playing. They had played before last night, of course, but lack of cash and knowledge as to how to obtain tickets had kept me from experiencing the spectacle of live hockey in the CZ, but thanks to my colleague and office mate:017

I was finally able to check that off my “to do in the CZ” list. The arena where the Bili Tygri Liberec (the Liberec White Tigers) play is very modern and very nice. It reminded me of many American sports arenas, and unlike American sports venues the beer and food are priced about the same as in town. For example, a beer at a pub costs between 25-35 kc, and the same brand beer at the arena cost 32kc. So that was a nice surprise. I had two beers because I had not eaten and I did not want to be too crazy at my first foreign hockey game, especially considering that the crowd was fairly mild in their attitude. There was very little noise or cheering (except for when goals were scored) in the arena; it was all very civilized (maybe a little too civilized, according to my colleague, Tomas, as he likened it to sitting in a movie theater not a sports arena, I compared it to teaching English at the University–he laughed and agreed that the crowd was as passive as our students).

My ticket to the game so all of you can see what Czech writing looks like:

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Despite the passivity of the crowd, the game was a good one. Mlada Boleslav (henceforth referred to as the bad guys) scored first and earl: 54 seconds or so into the opening period. The Tygri (henceforth referred to as the good guys) scored a few minutes later on a power play. And it was none other than Petr Nedved, a professional hockey player who played for the Canucks, the Penguins, and the New York Rangers, among others during a 15 year NHL career. Sure he is past his prime, but it was still lots of fun to see an old NHL great on the ice, stirring things up and scoring.

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There was a lot of enthusiasm on the ice from both teams, lots of pushing and shoving, and even a fight. Well, it wasn’t much of a fight because only one person was throwing punches while the other hit the ice and covered. This is what happened:

With about two minutes left in the game, and the good guuys ahead by a goal there was a face off in their zone. The bad guys sent a player on to the ice who had not played all game (obviously he was there just to start a fight, get some momentum for his team, and get one of the better good guy players–Nedved–off the ice for the rest of the game) to take the face off. Well, instead of going for the puck, he just went after Nedved, who in turn fell to the ground and turtled. He knew what the bad guys were trying to do, and was smart enough to swallow his pride and take some punches. This resulted in a five minute penalty for the bad guys, and a power play for the good guys. They did not score on the PP, but it doesn’t matter because at this point the fate of the game was sealed. I wanted to take a video of the fight, but I couldn’t get my camera ready in time. I did however get a shot of the equipment left on the ice:

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Other highlights of the game included two penalty shots. One from the good guys and one from the bad guys. I had a nice angle on the good guy’s penalty shot and was able to catch a video, but unfortunately I cannot share it with you because I cannot figure out how to upload the video to this website. Just know that it was a bad attempt and the good guy did not score. The bad guy, of who I have no video did score, and that was disappointing. But the Tygri won, so it really doesn’y matter.

And, there were cheerleaders at the game. It was kind of funny because they were young, some really young like 8-12, and others a little older like 15-17. I had to take a picture of some of the older ones for the hell of it; they were a little far away so they are kind of hard to see, but here you go anyway:

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All in all it was a fun experience, even if the crowd was somewhat subdued. And I look forward to enjoying many more hockey games while I am here in Liberec. And I leave you with a shot of the crowd to show that while the stadium was not full, it did have a fair amount of folks there, about 5,000 out of what is probably a max 6,000 person arena.

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