Thursday, September 29, 2011

Edmonton Oilers Update... for people who know nothing about anything about nothing.

The Hockey League, National Edition...

First off, click for a little something to whet the palate.

It's the most wonderful time of the year.

The grass is brown. The dust storms are swirling trash and little bits of human manure from the nearby farmland. The leaves fall from the trees and the street sweeping ladies quickly swoop in and scoop them up before anyone can frolic. Yes, it's hockey season in the middle of China!

Nobody cares but me!

October is one of my favorite months. In fact, I love the smell of the death of nature. Or, I guess I should call it hibernation. The grass looks like it's dead, but really, it's just waiting until things warm up again.

The same could be said for Oiler fans. We've been waiting 5 long seasons. Waiting for things to get warmer. The team could barely be called a team for 2 or 3 years there. Then a strange thing happened. There was a strange noise. That noise was the sound of the bottom of the ocean. The very depths of terrible. This season, that strange noise returned, only this time we were all used to it and actually kind of happy about it. Kind of like when random firecrackers blast away the silence of a summer Saturday morning in Xining. If it's because of a wedding or someone just moving into the building, the firecrackers are a tradition, warding off the evil spirits of bad luck.

Speaking of bad luck, the Oiler's best defense man is still injured. His ankles can't seem to handle the weight of his awesomeness. Ryan Whitney will start the season on the sidelines.

Speaking of ankles, Sam Gagner's is sprained. He'll be out for a while. Word has it his foot speed is up this year. Hopefully he can recover from this little speed bump and come back strong within a few weeks.

The good news is that they have an 18 year old rookie to keep Sam's seat warm for him while he recovers. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will be on the team come opening night. He's played really well in the preseason and, for me and Kevin Lowe, that's good enough to make this team.

If the Oilers were a nerd, and that nerd wore pants, you could hold him upside down and the lunch money that would fall out would be quite a balanced group of forwards. Ryan Smyth is back, so bring your tissue. Shaun Horcoff can play his natural role for the first time in 5 years. Ales Hemsky might be able to play a few games before his shoulder caves in on itself. And finally, Eric Belanger is the new good french guy who can replace the old sucky french guy known as J.F. Jacques. Yup, these guys just might be able to lasso a few more respectable performances this season.

The real excitement, thanks to this team being so horrible for so many years, are all of the talented young guys. Taylor Hall, Eberle, and Paajarvi are all back for their second seasons. I noticed the other day that Taylor Hall's hair is longer this year, so that's a good thing. Paajarvi kind of reminds me of Evgeni Malkin, so we'll see where that goes. I like to set the expectations bar too high so that nobody can accidentally hit their head on it.

In goal, we have 67 year old Nik Khabibulin. Being in jail this summer aside, the man is old, so let's not expect anything too exciting this season. There should be a lot of rubber pucks bouncing over, around and through this man all season. The other guy, Devan Dubnyk, looks pretty good, so let's hope that they let him play once in a while. A hip tweak here and a pulled groin there and we should see Double D playing significant minutes come November.

The defense is horrible.

So there you have it; everything you need to know, wrapped up in a tight little package. Toss it on the ol' zamboni in your brain and when the puck drops next week, remember that the best time of your life is about to begin.

Everybody's really excited!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

"And Sanchez takes the sn..."


"...eller inside the 20. 1st down Je..."


"Your video will continue in 15 seconds."

Insert annoying JLo Fiat commercial. JLo proceeds to drive around in a Fiat while singing her new single, Papi. Meanwhile, men from all walks of life hurry and push their way past each other to be able to catch a glimpse of the aging has-been star. Brief cases fly in the air, the papers falling out and dancing in the wind. For some reason, there are men on skateboards doing kick flips off of the stairs to try to catch up to JLo in her affordable ride.

Now I don't claim to be a Spanish linguist so I could be wrong but, is it a little strange that she is singing this song about her Papi? Isn't that her father? Is she calling him 'baby' in this song?

Back to the NFL.

This is how it's been for quite some time here in Xining. In fact, I am sure that the world is full of thousands of men, and perhaps women, who stream NFL games in the middle of the night. The stream is usually pretty choppy and there are a lot of pop-ups and commercials that you have to look around, but it's all we have.

The good thing about watching football at 1am is that it is a quiet time of day on the Internet, meaning the connection is usually a little faster than usual and the stream is not as choppy as, say, when you want to watch Monday Night Football on a Tuesday morning.

The bad thing is that you are actually up all night watching football, which, depending how you look at it, might not be the best way to start the week.

This past weekend I bought a special imported beer to watch the Jets' game with. At around 2am I realized that drinking a beer at 2am isn't the smartest thing to do. It remains unopened in the fridge, to be utilized at a later date.

The Jets ended up playing pretty well and easily won the game. The game ended at 4am.

At this point I decided that it was time to get 2 hours of sleep. The problem was that at the same time I realized that the Oilers' website was streaming the Joey Moss Cup, a sort of inter-squad scrimmage between all of the players trying out for the team. Well, I watched 2 periods of that and then fell asleep just in time for Miles to wake up crying. His problem?

"Dad, I can't see."

"Miles, it's 530 so it's still dark out."


I got back to sleep and then Jonas decided that it was time to get up for his milk. I muscled him back into bed and slept for 30 minutes.

The 3 stars of the night are....

3. The Jets Defense. Played really well and gave the offense time to make mistakes and still dominate the game.

2. The stream was smooth for most of the game. It was nice to watch football.

1. Barbara, who left with the boys around 830am and let me sleep in for a while.

God Bless the loyal fans who stay up to watch their team, no matter what time that might be; though, the smart thing to do would be to only do that once in a while.

But who am I kidding, I'm talking about football! A familiar North American cultural tradition that, though it takes away our sleep, infuses us with something much better and more reliable than sleep... magic good-feeling sentimental over hyped excitement.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

T-shirts, basketball, and NFL Predictions

They sure like their English here in China. Everywhere you look you will see people wearing t-shirts with English on them. Most of the time, the English doesn't make any sense. Here are a few that I have cataloged over the last few months:

"Sometimes I hate you."

"Bring back ma prime."


"Easy your life."

"Smart only ever had one good idea and it was stupid."

"I'm not easy but we can discuss it."
(An older lady was wearing this one. In any event, there was no discussion.)

I guess they kind of make sense. But, more so than in North America, the wearers of the shirts have no idea what their shirt is saying. Much like Americans getting Chinese tattoos.


It looks like the NBA is not going to happen this year. This is good for China, which looks to capitalize on the opportunity to sign more American players away from the league. Notable players who have already agreed to contracts are J.R. Smith and nobody else worth noting.

For me, the key to all of this is the CBA (Chinese Basketball Association). I have watched my fair share of this league on TV. Most of the teams have 1 or 2 import players already. The import players are usually big, slow American guys that weren't good enough for the NBA. There are never any flashy players in this league. The Chinese players are small, quick guys that can shoot and hustle on defense. So, basically, what you have with the CBA is a bunch of Chinese guys zipping up and down the court with a couple of big and slow import players trying to keep up. If there is ever a slam dunk in the game, the crowd usually makes one of those strange noises that signifies that most of them are unsure as to what has just happened and if it was legal and, if not, are they themselves going to be in trouble for it.

The crowd itself is much different over here. They all wear their black, brown, and grey jackets to the game. For the most part, they sit and politely applaud when a basket is achieved.

You're not going to see the speedo guy at the Dragons vs. Beijing Ducks game.

What I hope happens is that guys like J.R. Smith and whoever else plays there will inject some life into the crowd and get people excited about going to a sporting event. The Chinese love basketball and I think that they deserve some of the excitement that the world's best players can provide. It will be good for China.

On the other hand, what will happen to the NBA if they don't play this year? I, for one, am done with the NBA and all of it's marketing schemes. It's all about Lebron and I simply don't care enough to focus on him and perhaps the 3 or 4 other players they tout who apparently are much better basketball players than the 300 other players in the league.

The NBA seems to play the Lebron or Kobe card every time. How many points will Lebron score? Can Kobe win 10 Championships? Who cares? Do we ask the same questions about the Yankees? No, because nobody in their right mind would want to see the Yankees win another Championship... ever!

Well, I guess the one thing that the NBA has, much to their disappointment I would guess, is that Lebron and his buddies lost last year to a German guy. I think that stuff like that is good for the league and I just might keep one eye on things just to see stuff like that happen again. That is, if there even is an NBA this year.


And finally, the NFL season has kicked itself off!

I want to get you all excited for the season by offering you my top 18 moments of this year even before they happen. Are you ready?

1. Tom Brady throws for 500 yards in each of his first 3 games. In the forth game, someone in the opposing team's secondary holds up a giant mirror just as Tom is throwing a deep pass to Chad 85 and the ball goes through the mirror, back out where it came from and hits Tom in the groin. He misses 3 games due to the injury and the Patroits regroup by signing Doug Flutie, who in turn kicks the winning field goal the second week he is back.

2. Doug and Darren, The Flutie Brothers, will not reunite for one last show at this tailgate party.

3. Plaxico Burress leads the Jets in receiving yards. He goes out to the club to celebrate, but this time he is smart and puts his Glock 9 into the secured holster that is strapped to his leg.

4. The sports players of America agree to give this year's salaries to help pay off the national debt. I have no idea how much that would help, but I have a feeling that it wouldn't really help at all. But hey, thanks anyways, guys!

5. Randy Moss unretires and returns to the Patriots in time to demand a trade to the Raiders.

6. Mark Sanchez officially changes his name to Mark Seis.

7. Joe Flacco, QB of the Baltimore Ravens, takes time during his bye week to join forces with the Baltimore Police Department's Western District to help put Marlow behind bars for good.

8. Jared Allen takes up piano lessons.

9. At some point this season one of the players will order a Big Mac.

10. The Superbowl halftime show will be cut in half and broadcast at the end of the first quarter.

11. In order to curb amount of concussions caused by head shots, the league will require that all players strap a new device to their helmets. The new device is called the 'Con-cushion'. It is a big pillow that slides over the helmet and makes everyone look safe and, if you can believe it, even more sissy looking than Rugby players.

12. Not sure where it came from but happy it's around, players all around the league partake in the new trend of making a nice jello mold for their teammates and coaches. It isn't until week 4 that players realize that you can also put tiny marshmallows in the mold, and that the best time to do that is before you put it in the refrigerator.

13. Rex Ryan's brother Rob gets a haircut and is immediately fired by the Cowboys when they realize that he was actually just Rex all along. Meanwhile, the Jets sign their real coach,Rob, to a contract extension when he decides to grow his hair out and speed up the process with hair extensions. Extension is the key to this one.

14. Sebastian Janikowski kicks a football 'clear over those mountains'.

15. The Steelers start 0-5 and turn to other ways of making a living, most notably, stealing.

16. Someone in your fantasy league who is not paying attention all year long will end up winning the whole thing.

17. Lady Gaga will sing the national anthem at the Superbowl while sitting in a bowl of ground beef but nobody cares abo...

18. The New York Jets will win the Superbowl exactly 10 years before they select Boomer's son Gunnar Esiason in the first round of the draft. Gunnar plays half a season and then decides to pursue a career in broadcasting instead. 2 seasons later he is discovered and starts his late bloomer modeling career at the age of 26. 10 years later, on the 25th anniversary of this year's Superbowl, Gunnar announces that his new clothing line, Gunna, will be available at all Target Stores excluding locations in Canada.

Amazingly enough, 5 years later, Mark Seis is seen wearing one of the brand's t-shirts while strolling in downtown New York. It is believed that a witness claims that Mark's Superbowl ring's colors and design go so well together with the t-shirt that they could have almost been made for each other. Later on, when the media tracks down Mark for a comment, all he does is smile. Though, the joke was on him, for when he smiled he revealed a golden cap on one of his teeth. The color and the design of the tooth testified to the reliability of the witness and the rest, as they say, is history.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Pavol "Nice" Demitra: is there any hope in the loss of an entire sports team?

First of all:

It's overwhelming. If the KHL doesn't matter to people, could we imagine the Boston Red Sox just dying like that? The effect that it would have on the families and the fans? The void it would leave? The questions we would all have? Why? How?


I've always loved hockey. Anytime, anywhere. Growing up we would play a lot of street hockey. I always wanted to play more than everyone else and, yes, at times I would actually play by myself. I would get the goalie gear on and 'flick' the tennis ball at myself and try to make some sort of elaborate save. My brother bugs me about this all the time, but I am proud of my commitment, dang it!

Growing up I loved the Oilers but I was also a big St. Louis Blues fan. The reason for this is Brett Hull. Besides sharing a name, we got a long great. He scored a tonne of goals and I watched him from the other side of the TV. His book, 'Brett Hull: Shooting and Smiling' was one of the first books that I read that didn't have any pictures in it. It was also a hard cover. Mom would help me read it and I would use a ruler to keep my eyes on the line I was reading.

Brett Hull scored 86 goals one year. That was quite a feat. He got together with Adam Oates to form the 'Hull and Oates' duo that ripped apart the league for a good number of years. So it was a sad day when The Blues traded Oates away to Boston for Craig Janney. Janney was good, but not 'Adam Oates' good. Brett Hull's number started to decline and the excitement surrounding him and the Blues faded with each early playoff exit.

Eventually, Hull left St. Louis and won a Stanley Cup with the Dallas Stars after scoring a very controversial goal. Around the time Hull left, and myself and other Blues fans were wondering who would step up for the team, the Blues traded Christer Olsson to Ottawa for a young Slovakian named Pavol Demitra.

Almost immediately, Demitra became a star. During his second season with the team, Demitra was the leading scorer. A few years later he won the Lady Byng Trophy for being voted the most sportsmanlike player in the league. It's one of the trophies that Gretzky used to always win. A few years later he finished 6th in league scoring. After the NHL lockout, he signed with the Kings. Demitra finished his time in St.Louis with 493 points in 494 games.

Demitra was my favorite post-Hull Blue. Besides the fact that he was my Slovakian twin, he was also an amazing hockey player. I had hope that he would finally take the team deep into the playoffs. That never happened and since the time that he had left St. Louis the Blues have been pretty mediocre.


When Pavol was 17 years old, the USSR's strangle hold on his country finally let up. In an interview he talked about how strange that was to finally be able to watch NHL hockey on TV. He started to believe that his dream of playing in the best league in the world could be a possibility. A few years later, he began what would turn out to be quite an amazing career.

I had heard that he wasn't coming back to North America this season, that he had signed in the KHL. When his plane went down last week and I found out that he was on it, I couldn't believe that he was really gone. The tragedy of an entire hockey team being killed all at once is magnified when you grew up following one of the players so closely.

I think that often times I am not interested in a tragic news event unless I am somehow connected to it. I used to feel guilty about it. Like how North Americans followed the New Orleans flooding event so closely because it literally 'hit close to home', yet when I was in Hawaii this past year and a massive earthquake took place near my home in China, not many people in Hawaii, at an international missionary school, even knew it took place. People had died, people I knew, and nobody seemed to care.

I heard someone say that this is why we love our hometown. This is why we will always feel strongly connected to things that are familiar. Because it is our responsibility to care about what is close to us. Whether it is a place or people or even a Slovakian hockey player, we are put in a certain situation and we are told to take care of it. We have a responsibility. So, when there is an earthquake in China and nobody knows, at least I know and can tell people about it so that they will know. On top of that, you can be sure that there were a lot of people here in China that cared a lot about the people in the quake. They were taking care of what they were given.

So, when a hockey team dies in an instant, I take part in the responsibility in remembering and praying for him and his family. I cried for the guy. This is a strange thing, when someone you never met nor thought about for a long time dies. Suddenly they become dear to you. When I think about Pavol and his wife, Maja, the news that they lost a son (Tobias) in his infancy, it is all very heartbreaking knowing that his other two children, Lucas and Zara, are left without their hero of a dad. And for Maja, besides with her own health problems, the pain of losing a child and then sticking together through it all, only to have the one you stuck close to be taken away as well.

There is nothing good about a plane crash, No, "God is in control" kind of talk can convince me that this is a good thing or that I should feel okay with it. Yet, despite all of the horror, there is always hope.

I don't know what Demitra's personal beliefs were, but there is always hope for us. In believing that God never gives up on his creation I can know that there is hope for Pavol. There is hope that he and Tobias are reunited, or someday will be. It would be a much more sorrowful situation if I had to say that there is no hope. That God has given up. That once you die and don't know about God, that his love for you is distinguished, like a candle.

I used to believe this kind of thing because it seemed to be what everyone else believed. Then I remembered the stories. The stories Jesus used to try to tell the people about his Father's love. The stories of the coins and the sheep. The lost son. The father never giving up on his son, the Shepherd leaving the rest of the sheep to venture off to seek and find that stupid, confused, 'free willed' little lamb. I started to make a little more sense of the whole thing. I will always love my 2 boys, how much more does God love every one of his children?

Every tear will be wiped away. Every sorrow a distant memory.

I'm not sure how it all works, but I believe in hope. That there is hope for everyone and that that hope never burns out.

So when I picture Pavol growing up playing hockey, following his dreams, falling in love, raising children, and being a gentleman about it, I think that it would be my prayer that this guy would one day know the lover and creator of it all. The way he passed the puck was a beautiful, God-given gift. Someday, because of a loving God, the grief and misery of death will lose it's sting when the lost are found.

'Lord let your kingdom come.'

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Black Contacts: Part 3

An update on the black contact lens trend...

You know when you are watching a cartoon, like say the Care Bears, and you look into the eyes of those friendly little guys? Well, if you look closely you will see a dot of white in there, circling the center of the black. I recently found out why that dab of white is there. It's there because without it the cartoon would not look alive. It would look like a lifeless drawing, which it is, but with that splash of white it magically transforms into a life-like little friend.

I noticed this while watching Xi Yang Yang with the boys. It's a Chinese cartoon and there is a bad little wolf who continuously tries in vain to catch all of the happy little goats. Well, this wolf actually works for his wife, who scares and threatens him into doing her dirty work. She is kind of like No-Heart, the villain from the Care Bears that I was so scared of when I was little. The thing about the Wolf's wife is that when she is angry her eyes turn completely black without that life-like little shtickle of white. She looks very scary in this state and her poor little husband runs away to find a way to make her happy. Well, No-heart's eyes are actually red and the rest of his face is covered by the shadows of his purple cloak. But make no mistake, there aren't any dabs of white within the red. Not at all. A complete goner, over to the dark side with Sideous and The emperor.

The Point...

I've made this point before, but the black contact lens thing makes it look like you do not have a soul. If the cartoonists have figured it out I can only hope that the fashionably desperate will figure it out soon enough.

I must continue to look into this until i find peace.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

New Series

I've dusted off the ol' blog. Born in the month of May is back. I look at other people born in May and I try to learn a little bit about their lives and share a little bit of what I learn.

There are not a whole lot of rules to the format, but I'd like to shed some light on things that I have forgotten or never knew in the first place and I hope to appreciate and find some sort of inspiration from them.