A Very Important and Scientific Ranking of Elaine’s Boyfriends on ‘Seinfeld’ – Part 2

By: Stefania Mellace

Last week, we began our countdown of the top 40 of Elaine’s boyfriends on Seinfeld. There were ups, downs, and, of course, questions – who will be number 1 on the list? Where will David Puddy fall? Without further ado, here is the list of the top 20 sponge-worthy men that Elaine dates on Seinfeld.

Check out Part 1 of this very important and scientific ranking over HERE.

Seinfeld

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Bobcobb20) Bob Cobb (“The Maestro”):  Bob wants Elaine (and everyone) to call him “Maestro”, his self-appointed nickname. If George can’t give himself the nickname “T-Bone”, why does Bob get to give himself his own nickname? It’s not right. Bob and Elaine seem to have common interests (i.e. classical music, vacation destinations), but common interests don’t automatically signify compatibility. It also really bugs me that Bob doesn’t want Jerry to rent a house in Tuscany. People who don’t want anyone to share in their happiness and people who “one-up” others are the worst. Bob loses a ton of points in the personality category. Other than that, he is nice to Elaine, which is a lot more than the most of the previous men, so Bob makes it into the top 20.

Sponge-Worthy Score:   6.77

316px-David_lukner19) David Lukner (“The Wait Out”):  Do I find David Lukner attractive? Of course I do. Do I think he’s sponge-worthy? Absolutely. Elaine is “there for” David after Beth dumps him, with the hope that she will eventually just be “there.” There is always risk involved when you deal with the loser (or winner) of a relationship that just ended, and in the end David’s baggage is too heavy. David scores well in the looks category (Cary Elwes is a good-looking man), but loses points in the personality and fidelity categories. I guess Elaine could do a lot better than him.

Sponge-Worthy Score:   6.86

Odenkirk18) Ben (“Abstinence”):  Elaine supports Ben when he’s studying for his exam by being a selfless, patient girlfriend (“No! Hypokalemia, not metabolic acidosis. Duh!”) In a similar fashion as Veronica Vaughan in Billy Madison, Elaine stops having sex with Ben so that he can concentrate and pass. This appears to be a self-sacrificing act, but Elaine is actually doing it to fulfill her dream of marrying a doctor. She’s gone after this dream many times – there is the tonsil doctor in “The Heart Attack” episode and the “breathtaking” guy in “The Hamptons.” Of course, when Ben passes his exam he dumps Elaine to chase the true dream of becoming a doctor – dumping whomever you’re with and finding someone better. In dating and in life, when you get to the top, you shouldn’t forget the people who helped you get there. As such, Ben scores low points in the compassion and fidelity categories. I wanted to give Ben a better score just because of my love of Breaking Bad, but I couldn’t cheat the scientific process.

Sponge-Worthy Score:   7.07

bizarro jerry17) Kevin (“The Soul Mate”):  Bizarro Jerry and Elaine originally connect because they both desire a barren, sterile existence that ends when they die. Kevin is the male equivalent of Lena Smalls – he is reliable, considerate, and he and his friends do good things and read. Elaine tries to fit in with his group, but she is only able to pretend to be someone that she isn’t for so long. Relationships can only work when both parties are free to be themselves. The only category in which Kevin loses points is in the “gaga” category because Elaine openly admits that she isn’t gaga for him. That, and his lack of depravity, land Kevin in spot 17.

Sponge-Worthy Score:   7.18

Aaron16) Aaron (“The Raincoats”):  Aaron is a tad askew. Not only is he a close-talker, but he’s also certifiably nice. He is a thirty-five year old man who takes a complete stranger’s parents out to make sure they are enjoying themselves in New York City. It’s sad because all he is really doing is being nice, but there’s something to be said about someone who is this nice. Since we don’t know (or understand) Aaron’s motivations, he scores poorly in some of the categories. He also gets a low score for cleanliness because it can’t be hygienic to speak directly into another person’s mouth. Still, Aaron is a nice guy and falls just shy of the top 15.

Sponge-Worthy Score:   7.36

Carl couch15) Carl (“The Couch”):  Elaine is excited about Carl – she’s in love and believes that this is “it.” He’s good-looking (David James Elliott has a bit of a Jon Hamm thing going on), real, honest, unpretentious, and he doesn’t play games. People say that they hate playing games, but a little push-and-pull is an important part of keeping things interesting, especially in the early stages of a relationship. A married friend of mine told me that the secret to his successful marriage is that he and his wife take turns chasing and flirting with and each other. Games or no games, Carl’s values aren’t aligned with Elaine’s, and having similar values is a key component of a strong foundation. Poor Carl doesn’t get a high enough score and Elaine doesn’t get any of those Paccino’s pizzas.

Sponge-Worthy Score:   7.47

Mimbo14) Tony (“The Stall”):  Hunky, pretty-boy Tony is a “mimbo.” Tony is exciting, charismatic, and probably a lot of fun, but he scores low in the intelligence category. Elaine tries to convince Jerry that she’d be going out with him no matter what he looks like, but it’s clearly not true. Jerry points out that men are expected to be superficial and women aren’t, which doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. I know of plenty of superficial women – there are tons of them taking “selfies” in their underwear and sending them to popular websites (for some reason). George ends up having more of a non-sexual crush on Tony than Elaine does. After Tony is injured rock-climbing, Elaine has an epiphany: even if he is a hideous freak, maybe she can learn to love him and in some final irony, learn what love really is. She doesn’t.

Sponge-Worthy Score:   7.58

Kurt nonbald13) Kurt (“The Little Jerry”):  Elaine can’t understand why Kurt shaves his head when he has a beautiful head of hair (“That’s like using a wheelchair for the fun of it!”) I disagree with her assessment of the importance of a man’s hair to women – some men look good bald. Kurt proposes to Elaine when he starts going bald because George advises him to, “Live, dammit. Live! Every precious moment as if this was the last year of your life.” Kurt scores highly in all of the categories, except personality because of his lack of confidence. That – and the fact that he ends up in jail – keep Kurt out of the top 10.

Sponge-Worthy Score:   7.63

joel rifkin12) Joel Rifkin (“The Masseuse”):  Joel is a gentleman. He’s good looking, he’s a good shaver and he hasn’t thrown up in eight years. The problem with Joel is that he has the same name as a serial killer who strangled his female victims to death. Elaine and Joel take turns coming up with a new, suitable replacement name for Joel, but they can’t agree on one. It’s ironic that one of the names that Elaine suggests is O.J. (she is reading a football magazine at the time) because this episode took place just a few weeks before O.J.’s ex-wife was murdered. While it doesn’t work out with Joel Rifkin, it’s possible that things could have worked out better with Remy or Ellis Rifkin. Joel scores well in most categories, except the “gaga” category, as “gaga” is too close to the sound someone makes when they’re being strangled.

Sponge-Worthy Score:   7.68

250px-Russell11) Russell Dalrymple (“The Pilot”):  Russell becomes fixated on Elaine the moment she crosses his “field of vision.” He goes on one date with her and two months later, still can’t get over her (she’s just too charming). When Russell begs Elaine for another shot, she tells him that she doesn’t like that he works in network television because he’s “part of the problem.” Russell leaves his job as the President of NBC to work for Greenpeace so that Elaine will respect him and ends up lost at sea. I agree that you have to respect what your significant other does for a living (“You’re a cashier!”), but more importantly, you can’t force something if it’s just not there. Poor Russell has decent scores in all of the categories but doesn’t quite make the top 10.

Sponge-Worthy Score:   7.77

Scott sponge10) Billy (“The Sponge”):  Billy is the original “sponge-worthy” guy. He and Elaine go out several times and they have a good rapport. He owns a very profitable electronics distributing firm, he eats well, he exercises, has immaculate blood tests and he claims that he is good in the bedroom (A+ for his morning stamina). He is even willing to trim his sideburns and clean his tub for Elaine, which is a great sign (tub is love). There is nothing wrong with Billy and the only reason it doesn’t work is because of bad timing. He comes into Elaine’s life right when the sponges go off the market, which forces Elaine to re-evaluate her whole screening process in an effort to conserve them. As ridiculous as this situation seems, timing really is important. Sometimes timing is the only thing that keeps two compatible people apart (poor timing is the root of 90% of every “the one that got away” story). Billy scores well in all categories and starts off the top 10.

Sponge-Worthy Score:   8.03

300px-Reston9) Dr. Reston (“The Watch”):  Elaine doesn’t like being with Dr.Reston. She tries to break up with him, but he has a mental hold on her because he knows too much about her. Too many people in unhappy relationships stay together for reasons like this – they know each other too well or for too long or they are in too deep with each other’s family. Ultimately, you have to pay attention to whether or not you’re actually happy and try to silence any outside noise. Dr.Reston scores well in the compassion and intelligence categories, as he cares about his patients and is Elaine’s “svengali.” It’s a shame Elaine doesn’t make this one work – her dream of marrying a doctor could have been fulfilled.

Sponge-Worthy Score:   8.08

robert_mailhouse8) Robert (“The Beard”):  Robert needs a “beard” in order to appease his conservative boss, and Elaine plays the part well. Robert is incredible – gorgeous, successful, dresses well, likes shopping – but he’s also gay (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Robert is a “starting shortstop” on his “team” and although Elaine is able to convert him for short period of time, he switches back because he is most comfortable with his own “equipment.” While I applaud Elaine’s efforts, in the end, you have to accept your significant other for who they are and not try to change them. Robert scores well in all the categories and lands at number 8.

Sponge-Worthy Score:   8.19

ned7) Ned Isakoff (“The Race”):  Elaine thinks it’s so cool that Ned is a communist and even brags about it. Unlike with Robert, the only thing that she tries to change about Ned is his bland, drab, olive-coloured clothing (“Can’t you at least look like a successful Communist?”) Ultimately, she gets him blacklisted at Hop Sing’s and the relationship ends there. I think this one didn’t work out because Elaine is pretty selfish and careless (I love her anyway) and not because Ned is a “commie.” Ned scores well in the intelligence category because he is well-read (and well-red) and in the other categories, so he takes the number 7 spot.

Sponge-Worthy Score:   8.59

250px-Hal26) Hal Kitzmiller (“The Nap”):  Hal’s got a great last name – it should have worked out based on the last name alone. Elaine is offended when Hal sends her a customized mattress because she thinks it means that he is expecting a “roll in the supportive hay.” It turns out that he just wants her to have the comfort and support that she deserves. He easily fixes things by complimenting her about her height and weight, which is a good move. I think everyone knows how much women love compliments, especially sincere ones about height and weight. He is a little jealous/worried about Elaine and Kramer and asks Kramer if he’s been in her bed, but a little jealousy can be a good thing (moderation is key here). Overall, Hal scores well in all categories but we never find out why it doesn’t work out.

Sponge-Worthy Score:   8.69

whatley5) Tim Whatley (“The Label Maker”):  The biggest problem with Tim is that he is somewhat of a ladies’ man – he re-gifts, he de-gifts, and then he uses an upstairs invite as a springboard to a Super Bowl sex romp. Also, Tim is a dirtbag – he has Penthouse magazines in his waiting area and he and his hygienist take advantage of Jerry when he is unconscious in the dentist’s chair. While it’s a good thing to have a little “man on the streets, freak in the sheets”, Tim is pushing it. He and Elaine do end up in love with each other somehow, but we don’t know why it doesn’t work out. Tim is intelligent (even though he’s just a doctor who failed out of med school) and scores high in the sense of humour category because he converts to Judaism just for the jokes. Tim is actually a pretty good match for Elaine, so he lands at number 5. For the record, Walter White probably would have been number 1.

Sponge-Worthy Score:   8.88

200px-John_Germaine4) John Germaine (“The Rye”):  Elaine thinks John is totally sponge-worthy and is “gaga” over him (he’s a saxophone player and she fantasizes about his writing a song about her). The problem with John is that he doesn’t like to do “everything” even though… well, she’s there. Jerry makes a big, sudden move when he tells John’s bandmate that Elaine and John are “hot and heavy.” Elaine loses control over the relationship (or “hand” as George would call it) and convinces him to add a “new number” to his repertoire. It’s John’s unbridled enthusiasm in this area that leads to his ultimate downfall with Elaine. As such, John stays at number 4 on this list.

Sponge-Worthy Score:   9.16

250px-Hernandez3) Keith Hernandez (“The Boyfriend”):  Elaine and Keith have major chemistry, probably more than with any of the guys she dates on the show. Their pun-filled banter is really funny and cute – everyone wishes that they could have chemistry like this (it’s once in a lifetime, if you’re lucky). Jerry is jealous of both of them and describes them as “a perfect match, they go together like one of those brother-sister couples that look alike.” Elaine ends up dumping Keith because he smokes before they could even have “milk” and “cookies.” Elaine could have gotten over the smoking, but it didn’t work out for them (or for Jerry and Keith either), as they both broke up with him at the same time. Keith gets top points all around and is a near-perfect match for Elaine (and for Jerry). For these reasons, Keith is second-runner up on this list.

Sponge-Worthy Score:   9.59

Puddy2) David Puddy (“The Face Painter”):  Puddy is Elaine’s longest-lasting relationship and definitely her funniest. He doesn’t score high in the intelligence category, but he stops painting his face for her, he keeps getting back together with her whenever she wants to, and he dates her despite his being a germaphobe. They drive each other crazy, but they care for each other and they are together right until the end… well, right until she tells him not to wait for her and he says, “Alright” in true Puddy fashion. Puddy is actually willing to put up with Elaine’s craziness, and there is nothing that a woman wants (or needs) more than that. Puddy is great overall and is a close runner-up on this list.

Sponge-Worthy Score:   9.64

jfkjr1) John F. Kennedy Jr. (“The Contest”):  John F. Kennedy Jun-ya! In the 90s, John John lived and worked in Tribeca and was often seen around Manhattan playing Frisbee in Central Park, working out at the gym and biking around the city. It is brilliant that Seinfeld was able to incorporate him into the show (there are many references to the Kennedys throughout the Seinfeld series).  John John is described as someone who was charitable, intelligent, kind and adventurous. Despite his family name, he sought and treasured privacy and wanted to be treated as a regular New Yorker instead of as a celebrity (which is a lot more than can be said about any of those revolting Kardashians).

Although we never see him on the screen, we know that John John works out in Elaine’s aerobics class, they split a cab, and he asks about her “situation” afterwards. When he stops by Elaine’s building (which is actually Jerry’s building) to say hello, Elaine misses him and he ends up with Marla. In a later episode, we see John John and Marla watching the “Jerry” pilot together in bed. In the end, Elaine’s missed opportunity with the Prince of Camelot is a not only a microcosm of the Seinfeld series as a whole, but also of life in general – to be happy, you have to learn to enjoy the good moments in life as they happen instead of waiting for a fairy tale ending that may never come.

Sponge-Worthy Score:   10.00

 

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Your NBA Playoffs TV Guide: What to Watch and What to Avoid

By: Daniel Reynolds

There are eight NBA playoff series starting in this weekend. There are also a veritable mountain of sites that are currently working through the various permutations and predictions that the first round entails. I have a different angle. For the opening round of the NBA Playoffs, let’s forget the predictions. I’m telling you why you should watch or not watch any given series. Now, shoot.

Miami and Indiana: the only Eastern conference teams that most people are talking about.

Miami and Indiana: the only Eastern conference teams that most people are talking about.

THE EASTERN CONFERENCE

Indiana Pacers (1) vs. Atlanta Hawks (8)

Reason to Watch: Primarily, you can watch the ongoing Indiana disaster show. For the last few months of the season Indiana has been on a dramatic death march into the playoffs. First they signed Andrew Bynum, noted team chemistry savant, and then traded Danny Granger, oft-injured folk hero, for Evan Turner, a player most in Indiana probably wish would get injured. They started losing more games than they won, started airing grievances in public and managed to sort of accidentally win the Conference as Miami continued to rest and ease into the playoffs like an old man getting into a bath. Phew.

Or, watch the series to see Atlanta’s Pero Antic do his thang.

Reason to Avoid: The obvious reason is right there in the two team’s records. Indiana won a decisive 56 games this year while playing some earth-crushing defense. Meanwhile, the 38-win Hawks almost lost out on a playoff spot to the Knicks. The 2013-14 New York Knicks. Let that sink in for a second. This is not a particularly good Hawks team. And I can say that without even mentioning that Elton Brand figures prominently in their rotation. Watch at your own risk.

Miami Heat (2) vs. Charlotte Bobcats (7)

Reason to Watch: As a fan of professional basketball, you should probably watch the Miami Heat just on principle alone. When they are firing, the basketball they play is truly magnificent. The ball snaps around the court, 3s are rained down with impunity, and there are usually a few thunderous dunks. Plus, those Chris Bosh faces, man. Yes, as a basketball fan in 2014, it is important to remember that we still live in Lebron’s world.

On the flip side of that beautiful coin is the Charlotte Bobcats. They are not a beautiful team, being as they are comprised mostly of men who can’t shoot the basketball particularly well (Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Gerald Henderson). But there is a certain anger to be found in a team ignored (believe me, I’m a Raptors fan). With Al Jefferson going about his methodical destruction of everything within ten feet of the hoop, and a roster that ranks among the top 10 on defense, the Bobcats are playing to have their true identity acknowledged on the biggest stage. They must know they can’t actually win it all, which means – stay with me here – they can’t really lose. This one may be worth checking out.

Reason to Avoid: Quite simply, Miami eats up teams that are this one-dimensional. The Heat are fearsome along the perimeter when they want to be, and the idea of having to focus on only one clear cut offensive option (Jefferson) for four games must fill their minds with glee. I can see the Bobcats maybe making a few games interesting, grinding down the Heat for as long as they can. But at this stage of the game, beautiful basketball or not, Lebron is inevitable. This is a coasting 4-0 series victory.

A hopeful (totally real) future.

A hopeful (totally real) future.

Toronto Raptors (3) vs. Brooklyn Nets (6)

Reason to Watch: The Raptors are in the playoffs! The Raptors are in the playoffs! The Raptors are in the playoffs! The Raptors are in the playoffs! The Raptors are in the playoffs!

Reason to Avoid: If you’ll allow me my homer moment here, I don’t want to watch the Raptors lose in the first round. I’m having 2007 flashbacks. A city would be crushed, a nation in mourning. I don’t even want to think about this, a world where Joe Johnson’s impassive face and Deron Williams’ stupid haircut get to move on to the second round. I apologize for the brevity of this section as a whole. Let’s just move on.

Chicago Bulls (4) vs. Washington Wizards (5)

Reason to Watch: Now, here’s a study in contrast. The Bulls spent most of the year relying on whatever offense they could squeeze out of Carlos Boozer, Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson; D.J. Augustin was seen as a key shooter for them (D.J. Augustin!!!). If not for the transcendent play of Joakim Noah, who definitely is worth watching, and the maniacal coaching of Tom Thibodeau, the Bulls should have been in rebuild mode (with the Derrick Rose injury and the trade of Luol Deng, it seemed like that was the plan). Somehow, they are the 4-seed. There identity is just that firmly entrenched. They refuse to lose. This is remarkable in its own way.

The Wizards, meanwhile, constantly appear to be playing above their head. Their character is still somewhat in flux: How important is Nene? Do we trust Marcin Gortat? Is Bradley Beal the answer? Can we decide whether or not John Wall is a good shooter? Watch this series for the hopeful answers to these questions, the inevitable cavalcade of Wall highlights, oh and maybe a Gortat/Noah fist fight.

Reason to Avoid: I don’t know, are you excited for this series? The Bulls play some remarkably ugly basketball; they have to in order to survive. The Wizards have some hugely talented players (Wall and Beal chief among them) but you just never quite know what you’re going to get. It’s a combination that will inspire some 78-74 scores just as likely as a 114-91 tally. I just feel like it’s going to be that kind of series, e.g. a sloppy, weird one.

Jose Calderon attempting defense. (Sorry, Jose)

Jose Calderon attempting defense. (Sorry, Jose)

THE WESTERN CONFERENCE

San Antonio (1) vs. Dallas Mavericks (8)

Reason to Watch: Ah yes, we meet again, my old friends. In the Dirk Nowitzki era, the Spurs and the Mavs have met five times. The 15-year series stands at 3-2 for San Antonio. That’s a nice bit of historical perspective. Both teams have had their successes against each other. And let’s not forget the songs they still sing in Dallas about that vaunted 2010-11 team, the one that won the championship. They’ll always have that, won’t they? Sorry if this is sounding quaint. I’ll explain.

The thing is, the Spurs are on a road of vengeance. You know that scene in Gladiator when Maximus takes of his helmet and reveals all to the Emperor? Think of the first three rounds of the playoffs as everything that happens before that. The Spurs want revenge on Miami and I’d be lying if I said it will not be entertaining to watch them chew up all the teams that get in their way. No way - no way - does even this delightful Dallas team (Vince Carter excepted) become anything other than a speed bump for the unstoppable chariot that is the Spurs.

Reason to Avoid: I suppose I could go with the “Spurs are boring” adage, but that is definitely incorrect. It is true that Manu doesn’t play in quite the same eye-popping way as he once did, and that Kawhi Leonard, Patty Mills, Boris Diaw and Marco Belinelli lack a certain je ne sais quoi, and dammit I don’t know how many more times I can watch Tony Parker calmly obliterate another point guard (sorry in advance Calderon). The Mavericks are canny, but the Spurs are out for blood. This may be a “massacre of childhood dreams”-type of series.

Oklahoma City Thunder (2) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (7)

Reason to Watch: I want the Memphis Grizzlies to succeed. There, I said it. There is something so lovable about a team in 2014 that plays true inside-out basketball, has no reliable 3-point shooters (except maybe the undead Mike Miller) and lives and dies by its patented – with T-shirts and everything – grit n’ grind mentality. They’ve earned that nickname, by the way. It ain’t always pretty (unless Marc Gasol is throwing some mind-bending passes), but you gotta love it.

The case for always watching the Thunder in the playoffs is easy: Kevin Durant is a basketball magician. The case for watching this particular series with the Thunder: Russell Westbrook is a basketball demolition expert. Combine those two with this irascible Grizzlies crew and you’ve got yourself something special.

Reason to Avoid: At this point, it is impossible to be a basketball fan and not want, desire, yearn, to watch the aforementioned Durant (ask Seattle how the yearning truly feels). And if you don’t like the current iteration of Z-Bo, spirit warrior, then there is something wrong with you. Avoid this series if you have more pressing life matters to attend to. Otherwise, there is no excuse.

Paul and Curry: best of friends.

Paul and Curry: best of friends.

Los Angeles Clippers (3) vs. Golden State Warriors (6)

Reason to Watch: Let’s be honest: the Western Conference playoffs are loaded this year. Case in point, look at all the names involved here: Paul, Griffin, Curry, Thompson, Jordan, Bogut, Crawford, Iguodala, Granger, O’Neal, Lee, Big Baby, Turkoglu. I mean, shit, this series reads as a who’s who of the NBA in the last decade (or decade plus, if we are indeed counting Jermaine O’Neal). Toss all those players into the playoff blender, give them two games (at least) played in the pressure cooker that it Oracle Arena, and you have a scintillating playoff series.

Reason to Avoid: You hate the following: cool jerseys, heat checks, J.J. Redick (OK, fair enough), basketball, fun, life. Get out.

Houston Rockets (4) vs. Portland Trailblazers (5)

Reason to Watch: This has the potential to be a real wild west gun fight of a series. The Rockets are like that rec league team filled with gunners that can win any game at any time or completely shoot themselves in the foot. And the Blazers are like that rec league team that, um, is also filled with wild gunners that can win or lose on a whim. Not just that, this series also has: the presence of the insane Patrick Beverley, the love-to-hate Dwight Howard, the sublime (nut-puncher) Nicolas Batum, the unkillable Mo Williams, the beard of James Harden, the ghost of Bill Walton, and more. Basketball is so fun sometimes.

Reason to Avoid: I suppose purists will be heard decrying the almost comical lack of attention paid by James Harden to the notion of defense. But that’s all I got. This is a tough one to talk down since both the Blazers and Rockets have been involved in some highly entertaining games this season. They both play an up-tempo style that involves a lot of exciting 3-point shooting and fast movement, they both feature thrilling superstar calibre players (Harden and Aldridge, first among them), and both will have crazy playoff crowds. Hmmm, Houston might shoot a lot of free throws? That’s boring, right? I got nothing.

It’s the NBA playoffs and it starts on Saturday.

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Skating on Black Ice: An NHL Playoff Q&A

By: Chris Dagonas

The NHL’s playoffs start Wednesday night and we here at the Same Page are both: a) Canadian, and b) sports fans. In addition to the melting snow and short glimpses of summer weather, this is an exciting time of year for us.

Even without the perennially disappointing Maple Leafs, this year’s playoffs offer plenty of interesting questions.

WHAT IS THIS NEW PLAYOFF FORMAT? 

So, the NHL went to two divisions in each conference this year. In the Eastern Conference, we have the Metropolitan division and the Atlantic division. In the West, we have the Pacific and the Central.

Each division sends at least three teams to the playoffs, and they all end up in the same bracket. The fourth spot in each bracket is a wild-card team, which could come from either division, depending on points.

There is no more 1-vs-8, 2-vs-7, etc. Instead, there are two brackets of 1-vs-4 and 2-vs-3. In theory, this should lead to more interesting first-round series.

This year, as it happens, the Eastern Conference did not have any crossover teams, as four teams from each division qualified. In the West, however, we have five teams from the Central division, while only three from the Pacific qualified. So that means that the Dallas Stars, despite being a central team, are in the Pacific bracket against the top-seeded Anaheim Ducks.

Last season's champion Blackhawks will be tough to beat again this spring

Last season’s champion Blackhawks will be tough to beat again this spring

WHICH FAVOURITE WILL MAKE AN EARLY EXIT?

It happens every season: a highly-seeded team falls in the first or second round to some upstart with a hot goalie. With the new playoff format, and based on recent history vis-a-vis Western Conference dominance, the team most likely to fall early will be coming from the West, and most likely the Central division. Chicago, St.Louis and Colorado all have more than 105 regular-season points, and one of those three will have to be knocked out in the first round. The Blues and Blackhawks will meet in Round 1, and with the returns of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, the Hawks will be at full strength with a more talented team. Sorry, St. Louis, but you’ll be, ahem, singing the Blues after round one.

In the East, I see a lot of hope for the favourites. The only series where I might be convinced of a lower seed going through is Montreal-Tampa Bay, where the Canadiens hold the upper-hand in goaltending, defense, and secondary scoring. Of course, the Lightning feature the world’s second-best player in Steven Stamkos, so you can never really count them out entirely. Ryan Malone may not be at his best, though. Here’s why.

WHAT IS SOMETHING I DON’T REALIZE THAT I SHOULD REALIZE?

The Los Angeles Kings are the best puck-possession team in the league. They have also given up the fewest goals of any team. You should realize that the Los Angeles Kings are a very well-run hockey team, and I will not be surprised if they make another long run toward the Cup.

The St. Louis Blues have lost six games in a row entering the post-season. That should qualify as foreshadowing, about as dreary as Sigur Ros in a Game Of Thrones episode.

You should realize that the Boston Bruins are really, very good. They stayed healthy all season, and finished with the most wins in the East, as well as the fewest goals allowed. Patrice Bergeron exploded to become one of the league’s best centres, and their goal difference was +84, twice as high as the second-ranked team in that category. As good as the Blackhawks were during their Cup run last season, the Bruins have been almost that good this year.

Jonathan Quick and the Kings will make life difficult for opposing forwards

Jonathan Quick and the Kings will make life difficult for opposing forwards

WHICH SERIES ARE YOU MOST EXCITED FOR?

Great question. Watchability is a huge factor in making the playoffs interesting, especially when your team is already on the golf course. (I’ll always love you, Toronto Maple Leafs, but my gawd that was an atrocious March/April.)

In the West, the opening round series I’m most excited about is the San Jose Sharks vs. the Los Angeles Kings. I’ve already written glowingly about the Kings, but the Sharks have been getting shit done out in California for almost a decade now. But they have hit major bumps in the playoffs, and time is running out on the Thornton-Marleau incarnation of these Sharks. They’re still a very talented team, though, and if I can stay up late enough, I’d love to watch as many of these games as I can.

Chicago-St. Louis could also be a classic, but I just don’t have a lot of confidence in St.Louis right now. Meanwhile, Chicago will be flying high with the returns of Kane and Toews. This will more likely go down as a sweep, or almost-sweep, for the Blackhawks. I hope I’m wrong on that, though.

On the East coast, I’m jazzed to see the Bruins and Red Wings do battle in the kind of old-school, rough-and-tumble style that Don Cherry and people of his ilk love, except without all the ridiculous fighting. Because fighting in hockey is pointless and stupid. Great players, big hits, and battles for the puck. That’s good ol’ playoff hockey! (Picture me with a Black Ice in my hand as I say that, obviously.)

Is this the toughest image you could find?

Is this the toughest image you could find?

That’s not to mention the Rangers and Flyers, who have hated each other since the 1970′s, and will continue to do so as this series goes on. Claude Giroux has been on a tear for most of the season, and will be looking to make up for lost time after missing out on the playoffs entirely last year. The Rangers are lead by breakout star Mats Zuccarello and Derek Stepan, as well as veterans Brad Richards and Rick Nash, and have three reliable scoring lines. I predict a high-scoring series, and one that seems destined for seven games.

HOW ABOUT A BRACKET SHOWING YOUR PICKS, YOU COWARD?

Sure thing:

The West breaks down thusly

The West breaks down thusly, in my humble opinion.

Remember, I’m the guy who picked Michigan State to win the NCAA basketball tournament, so, you know, grain of salt and all that.

I take no responsibility for my picks. Any money lost is your own fault.

I take no responsibility for my picks. Any money lost is your own fault.

As the playoffs progress, I will return periodically with my thoughts, observations, and apologies for bad predictions. I also reserve the right to tinker with the above brackets as needed for the Conference finals.

Beer me a Black Ice. Pass me the Triscuits. Shut the hell up.

It’s playoff season.

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20 Notes from the AGO’s Massive 10

By: Daniel Reynolds

1.

I agreed to attend the AGO’s Massive 10 party at the behest of my friend Antonio. I’d never heard of the event before. While I like to believe myself to be something of a social person, the more “glamourous” events in Toronto are usually something I look to avoid. Still, a party is a party. Even if it’s in an art gallery. I ironed a new shirt, prepared a suit, and shaved (in a rush; kids, never shave in a rush. There will be blood.) Upon arriving at the venue, I saw one young woman immediately change, on the sidewalk, from her flats to her heels. This party is apparently serious business.

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2.

Do you read those BlogTO fashion posts? I peruse sometimes. They evoke something akin to stepping into an alternate dimension. Here be the documents of an age, where everyone is super proud of their outfit and they all have nebulous professions (“marketing”, “actress”, “publicist”). There’s a page up for the Massive 10. Not surprisingly, I did not make the cut. I was in my navy Indochino Steve Nash suit. Antonio showed up in an untucked grey shirt, burnt umber khaki pants and red shoes. His sister talked him out of wearing a leather Peruvian ball cap. I don’t know, maybe that would have earned him a spot on the page.

3.

Not ten minutes in the door, a tray of Martinis goes by. The waiter begins explaining what is in the beverage but, really, she had me at ‘vodka’.

4.

Speaking of which, every trip to the bar included an order of at least one vodka soda by someone within earshot. I may have ordered a few. It was the unofficial drink of everyone, I swear. Unrelated: has anyone quantified or correlated the effect the bar industry has on lime farms? No one? Someone call FiveThirtyEight.

5.

We descended to the basement space, a veritable concrete cavern. There is a lot going on. Some aged ladies groove to music, people greet each other in a flurry of hugs, and at least twice I think people are talking to me until I realize they are looking over my shoulder at someone else approaching. A confrontation begins brewing in a line-up to take photos in front of some bizarre overly decorated backdrop. Antonio and I wisely step out of the way. These people are adults.

6.

Things start to flag until John Tory, candidate for mayor, walks by. Surprising myself, I engage him in conversation and desperately try not to accidentally spit in his face while I talk. Tory is smooth, and visibly lights up when I mention I am a municipal employee. We talk shop for a few minutes. Antonio gets familiar and pats Tory on the back at least twice while explaining his current line of work. Tory seems impressed. I broke out into a sweat.

7.

A band plays on in the background. I’ll be honest, the music is nothing special but there is a huge black stage behind them with the letters PERFECT STRANGERS spelled out. So I guess that’s their name? Or are they just big time Balki Bartokomous fans? Hard to tell.

8.

Not sure who’s decision this was but there was a roving band of hockey players (sans skates) patrolling the floor and making a ruckus. Couple this with the following: greeters flashing “10″ placards upon entry, shirtless muscle men offering fingerless skeleton gloves, and I’m pretty sure I saw a man dressed for a prize fight. The art world, man.

9.

Let’s take a break to talk about the art. You’re not going to believe this but as the night went on this became less and less important to me (and, presumably, everyone else). There were a couple of gallery hallways that we wandered through. And Antonio was thoroughly mesmerized by a wall of screens that showed people applauding and cheering rapturously. I felt bad for the artists sketching on easels in near darkness adjacent to the performing band. They were working away with their backs to the dance floor while people walked by with drinks and the band droned on. Plus, seriously, it was dim. That can’t be good for the eyes.

10.

Oh yeah, the ping-pong table. There was an oversized ping-pong table and a surplus of paddles.

11.

In one of the main atria, I overhear the first whispers of the party to be had upstairs. You have to take an elevator to get there. So, of course, there is the requisite line.

12.

We hit peak existential tedium: waiting in line in an art gallery, waiting for an elevator to go up to a different part of the art gallery, to go… dancing in an art gallery. I try to engage in philosophical conversation with my fellow line-goers. It doesn’t take.

13.

The top floor dance party. First impression: feels like a more stylish, and more populated, wedding reception. The DJ is better though. I don’t hear “YMCA” or the “Ra Ra Rasputin”. On the flip side, I hear “Get Lucky” at least two other times.

14.

After wandering around, I run into a girl I went on one date with a few months ago and never contacted again. If you’re still reading this column, now we’re coming to the salacious parts. Join me at number 15.

15.

OK, that was a tease. Nothing salacious happened (though this column is starting to make me sound a tad louche). She revealed to me that the “creative” types at the party were spending most of their time laughing at the lawyers and financial types. This is Toronto Civil War material. This woman in particular works in magazine publishing. I like to call myself a writer, but I’m also a municipal employee. She eventually, curtly, sent me on my way. But this definitely highlighted a fascinating (to me) divide between the stated intent of a party (an appreciation of art?) and its actual participants (people with money, generally).

16.

I drank more vodka and tried to get out of my own head.

17.

I’d like to get this notion down on digital paper: If you are at a club on the dance floor and you can spin around with your arms out, you are at a dead club. There.

18.

I didn’t mention this until now but the open bar policy at the Massive 10 did not allow for the ordering of “doubles”. I lose count of how many times I head to the bar. Unclear as to whether my subsequent recollections may have suffered.

19.

All in all, at times the party felt a bit like a lower rent version of The Great Beauty (with far fewer Italians, and no dwarfs that I could see). Much like my experience watching that film, I spent most of my time vacillating between trying to have a good time (drinking, shuffling my feet to a rhythm) and thinking about what I was seeing as it was happening. I feel like maybe this is what happens when one is trying to organize an event for writing purposes while the event is going on.

20.

At some point it sunk in that it was Thursday night at 1 am, then 1:30 am, then with lights on and a rapidly dwindling crowd, it was 2 am. I’ll be the first to say that this supposed “massive” party felt like it dissipated quickly in a cloud of smoke. I took a cab home, collapsed in bed at 2:30 am.

The alarm clock went off at 6:50 am. A massive hangover was all I had left.

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Mad Men Monday Recap – ‘Time Zones’

By: Daniel Reynolds

Heading into the first half of the final season, the Same Page welcomes you each week to the Mad Men Monday Recap. A show as deep as this one needs some diverse commentary so jump in and enjoy our irreverent breakdown of each episode. 

Mad-men-title-card

What’s Happening on Madison Avenue?

It is worth taking a minute to discuss what happened in each episode. If you’re looking for some straight talk on what we just saw on Mad Men, read this section (and then read the other sections because, why not).

Are you ready? Because I want you to pay attention. This is the beginning of something. That’s Freddy Rumsen, unlikely stand-in for showrunner Matthew Weiner, reminding us of our mission here. With 14 episodes left, Mad Men is heading into the final stretch; it’s time to get serious. So, Rumsen’s doughy moon-like face is the first thing we see at the start of Season 7 of Mad Men. He’s pitching an idea to Peggy, but really, he’s pitching it to us. Let’s wake up and pay attention.

Peggy and Joan are holding things together and appear to be the only truly competent people at SC&P. Stan still has his beard, Ginsberg still isn’t given much to do, and somewhere, off-screen, the unctuous Harry Crane lurks. A pan across the apartment of Roger suggests a new, even more advanced, debauched lifestyle; his daughter gives him a forgiveness he doesn’t want. The office buzzes but these two women are on their own now. In that way, perhaps things are the same. Granted, Lou Avery is the creative director now. And Ken is Head of Accounts. Suddenly Peggy is no longer waging philosophical war with Don, or engaging in a furtive and dreamy romance with Teddy. She just gets Lou’s affable indifference. It’s accurate because it’s accurate.

Joan, meanwhile, is back to toiling in the face of incredulity. Ken wants help from anyone and everyone, the Butler shoes man wants to establish an in-house marketing department, and Joan is, as usual, left to solve all these problems on her own. In the process she talks her way into some business advice, she duels with Ken, and she puts the Butler man in his place. If Peggy feels adrift and unchallenged, Joan continues to be remarkably steeled despite continuously not being taken seriously. When will she get any credit?

Teddy is back in NYC, and despite not having a tan, he did spend the past two months hobnobbing in LA. It definitely feels like it didn’t take. You know who does like LA though? Pete Campbell. He likes the clothes, he likes the blondes and he likes those sandwiches with the coleslaw nestled right in there next to the pastrami. (The bagels however? They’re terrible.) Yes, Pete is living large now, embracing the sunshine and promise of an America different from the one he left behind in chilly Manhattan. Even Don looks impressed.

And so, as always, we end on Don. If Peggy is frustrated, and Pete is joyous, then Don is aimless once again. Amazingly, it seems like everywhere he goes, as if by accident, he ends up with a woman nearby and enthralled. This time, Neve Campbell (whoa), of all people, drops in. In typical Draper fashion, he can open up to even the most remote strangers but can’t, or won’t, admit anything to his wife, Megan. Yes, surprise, they are still married. But, Don thinks he may have broken the vessel. He knows that Megan sees him as a bad husband, that the damage he has done will eventually, irrevocably break up this most recent marriage. He can still sell the work, though. Maybe it’s a good sign that Don is no longer ranting incoherently about the perfect idea. In a delightful twist, it is revealed that Don’s been pitching work through Freddy. They have their own little broken vessel club. Rumsen gets paid, Don gets to keep working.

The TV screen asks: “Haven’t you ever dreamed of a place where there was peace and security, where living was not a struggle but a lasting delight? Of course you have.” Don is marginally awake when he sees this, the word “Utopia” flits across his mind. Megan is jostled awake, but Don feels like he is still sleepwalking.

The Symbolism Rankings

Enjoy, with minimal comment, the weekly rankings for whatever symbolism Matthew Weiner has heavily stacked into each Mad Men episode. A show set in the world of advertising is only as good as its symbolism, right?

1) Broken Sliding Door

2) Accutron Watch

3) Headscarf

4) TV message of “Utopia”

Back in the Day

Remember the 1960s? Mad Men really values its sense of place. To that end, here’s where we make mention of whatever anachronistic or historical element popped up this week.

A cold wind is blowing, it is early 1969, and Richard Nixon is on TV talking about “don’t worry”. As a signifier for the end of an era, you really can’t go wrong by starting with Tricky Dick. While the Kennedies’ youthful exuberance gave way to JBL’s practical but unglamourous politicking, it was Nixon who really got the ball spinning into a new day of political underhandedness, craven moralizing, and endlessly insecure over-surveillance. Nixon was, in many ways, one of a kind but of course we know that politicians tend to have a little from all three of those aforementioned devious columns. JFK’s hands were never really clean, JBL bombed the hell out of southeast Asia, and I don’t need to remind anyone of the current NSA fiasco.

Politics are trouble. Seeing the 37th U.S. president on the TV screen last night was a reminder of a time when people didn’t yet know what to make, at least not completely, of Richard M. Nixon. They didn’t fix every scandal with the ‘-gate’ moniker, they couldn’t use his name as some sort of negative governmental shorthand, Oliver Stone wasn’t involved in their lives yet. In short, they didn’t have Nixon to kick around yet, and perhaps they were better for it.

This Week in Ken! (Cosgrove. Accounts.)

As the most likeable guy in the entire series, Ken Cosgrove deserves his chance to shine. Here’s where we discuss what everyone’s favourite earnest moonlighting sci-fi writer was doing or not doing on the last episode.

Ken, you’ve changed. I don’t know if it’s the better title (Head of Accounts), the workplace loneliness (only Harry is around from the old guard, and he didn’t even appear in the episode), or the eye patch… wait, yeah, it’s the eye patch. Folks, lets be honest, Ken Cosgrove has lost that youthful innocence that made him the most likeable Mad Men character. Now he’s throwing fits, yelling at people behind closed doors and angrily answering long distance phone calls. I’m distressed.

There is hope however. In Ken’s last scene with Joan this week, he lets loose a small note of that old Cosgrove graciousness. In calmly reprimanding Joan for snooping in his office, he reminds her and us that he can still be something of a gentleman. His off-centre toss of the earring back to Joan, a wide throw due to his new lack of depth perception, is a sad reminder though that these days Ken is just… off.

Know Your Role

Since so much of Mad Men is predicated on minute character interactions, here’s where we discuss the top conflicts that happen in each week’s episode and decide on a winner.

Since Don basically avoided confrontation this week (his scenes with Megan were still filmed entirely on eggshells), our lead combatant has to be Peggy. Her opponent? THE WORLD.

In the office, Peggy appears locked into combat with new boss Lou, she clearly wants to avoid Teddy (who only wants to dance away from her with his toast, the coward), and even her tenants (represented here by Julio, the yelling youth) are giving her a damn hard time. She takes her frustrations out on smiling Stan, the only real pal she has, but it is not enough.

The real bummer for Peggy? After spending most of the decade striving to work harder, to be better, to rise above, she suddenly finds herself alone in limbo. Her mentor, Don, isn’t around to passive-aggressively push her anymore; her erstwhile lover, Teddy, isn’t around to creatively boost her anymore; and her new boss Lou appears to value a weekend spent chopping wood over doing the best work possible. For Peggy, this is a fate worse than death, it is creative suicide, forever stuck in a purgatory of terse conversations and circular, mild-mannered refusals. She’s worked too hard to be told she should stop working so hard.

The end result? Peggy ends up crumpled on the floor, tears flowing freely. It ain’t pretty.

Winner: THE WORLD.

Actual Advertising

Between the drinking, the social commentary and the drinking, sometimes the people of SCDP and Madison Avenue actually do some work on advertisements. Here is where we sit in the seat of the client, trying to figure out what the hell these ad guys are talking about.

Am I alone in being completely and utterly sold on Freddy Rumsen’s Don Draper’s Accutron pitch? Boy, I really wanted to see that watch. That Draper magic is still out there, people. I haven’t worn a watch in years and yet I was ready to run out and buy into this wonderful future of accurate time keeping and wristwatches as conversation starters (how quaint). Even a schlubby guy like Rumsen can be made to sound like a silver tongued genius with vintage Draper coming out of his mouth.

In case you were curious, it turns out that the Accutron brand actually has a rich history involving a young Czech immigrant jeweller named Joseph Bulova who lived in Manhattan in the 1870s. Reading through the history of Bulova feels like scanning a blue print for the future of America. A man from old world Europe comes to the U.S. with a dream, he rises in his field and builds a company that goes on after he’s gone. It eventually grows to include celebrity endorsements (Lindbergh! Omar Bradley!), and whoa, what’s this, essentially invents the TV commercial in 1941. Jumping ahead to 2000, then-NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani declares October 4th as Bulova Day. If you want to force in some metaphor here about Don Draper, I’m all ears.

Don still makes that hat work for him in 1969. An impressive feat.

Don still makes that hat work for him in 1969. An impressive feat.

Next Episode Predictions

This is where we watch the totally opaque preview for next week’s episode and make wild guesses as to what will happen next.

Oh, “On the Next Episode of Mad Men”, I wish I knew how to quit you. It’s been a long year but I’m just so happy to be back in the comfortably numb embrace you offer each week. I am tantalized and teased anew with your promises of questions and maybe, just maybe, answers. Ginsberg hints at something that Peggy is going to find out (but what?), Pete suggests they start their own agency (again? Campbell, you gots to chill), Dawn recommends to someone that they keep pretending (but who? and how?), and Lou bellows that none of this has anything to do with him.

Oh Lou, don’t you know? This has everything to do with all of us. See you next week.

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