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.

Massive_10-290

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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A Very Important and Scientific Ranking of Elaine’s Boyfriends on ‘Seinfeld’ – Part 1

By: Stefania Mellace

For a show that ended more than 15 years ago, Seinfeld is still surprisingly prevalent in my everyday life. Like many, I never tire of watching reruns and can probably recite many episodes line for line. In fact, I find myself making Seinfeld references so often that I wonder if anyone understands what I’m saying half of the time. When I find people who actually recognize one, I go so far as to immediately look at them in a more positive light – a situation I’ve dubbed the “Seinfeld Reference Effect”.

Last month, as I was skimming the usual ‘pets in knitted sweaters’ and ‘determine which Game of Thrones character you’re most like’ articles (I don’t care what they say, I’m totally Daenerys), an Uproxx post on Warming Glow caught my attention. In the article, entitled “A Very Important and Scientific Ranking of Jerry’s Girlfriends on Seinfeld”, the author uses key traits that men look for in women to rank 50 of Jerry’s girlfriends on the show.

Reading this article had a two-pronged effect on me. First, I started thinking that a great deal of focus is too often placed on Jerry’s girlfriends relative to Elaine’s boyfriends. Any fan knows that Jerry breaks up with one girl because she has “man hands” and another because she eats her peas one at a time, but Elaine has her own cornucopia of dating blunders that are just as shallow. Secondly, it inspired me to prepare a response to the article (perhaps it’s an homage) by ranking Elaine’s boyfriends on the show.

Elaine Benes

The one, the only, Elaine Benes.

Since I must respect the scientific process used in the original article, what follows is a thorough, scientific analysis of Elaine’s boyfriends using 1-10 scales in the same categories: personality, intelligence, looks, cleanliness, sense of humour, compassion, fidelity and overall “gaga” factor. I call this the “Sponge-worthy” scoring system.

I must point out that Jerry himself is not considered in this ranking for the simple reason that it is difficult for me to give him anything other than the top spot (due to my own personal admiration for him). Also, for the record, Jerry and Elaine don’t belong together – Seinfeld is not Friends. Yes, there are many references to their being together in the series, but I respect the fact that the writers purposely did not give the show a fairy tale ending. Other than Jerry, every boyfriend over the span of all nine seasons is considered.

With that said, I give you this very scientific ranking of the 40 best boyfriends that Elaine dates on Seinfeld.

Note:  For those appearing in multiple episodes, the episode referenced is the most relevant episode with respect to Elaine. 

The Men Who Didn’t Make the Cut               

FredFred (“The Pick”):  Fred (the religious guy) can’t get over the fact that Elaine’s nipple makes an unsolicited appearance in her Christmas card photo. Before we accuse Fred of overreacting over a little “nip”, according to Jerry in “The Red Dot”, sex is considered to have taken place once the nipple makes its first appearance. In the end, we don’t get to know Fred at all so he doesn’t make the cut.

ed_1Eddie (“The Busboy”):  Eddie from Seattle (the pesto of cities) meets Elaine in New York, goes back home, discovers that the Benes tattoo doesn’t wash off so easily and returns to live with her for a full week. We don’t learn much about him, other than the fact that Elaine hates his guts after only a few days. In any case, pushing Eddie to pack so that he doesn’t miss his flight is one of the funniest “Elaine” moments in the entire series, so we have to thank him for that.

GrossbergBob Grossberg (“The Friars Club”):  Rob Schneider does a good job of playing Bob, Elaine’s hearing impaired co-worker. Elaine teases him in a very sexual way to see if his hearing aid is legit. Peterman overhears and, since making fun of someone’s handicap is cruel and grounds for dismissal, he orders Elaine to take Bob to the Flying Sandos Brothers magic show with her. Since Elaine leads Bob on, you can’t blame the guy for making a pass at her, but he still doesn’t make the list.

newmanNewman (“The Soul Mate”):  A modern day Cyrano De Bergerac, we learn of Newman’s unrequited love when he tells Kramer of Elaine, “For my heart has also been captured by a breathless beauty whom I fear I may never possess.” This causes me to question whether there is more to Newman than meets the eye (or less). While I agree with Newmie that, “There is but one woman meant for each of us, one perfect angel for whom we are put on this earth,” unfortunately, Elaine is not that angel.

 

LippmanMr. Lippman/Adam Lippman/Rabbi Glickman (“The Serenity Now”):  These three Jewish men are attracted to Elaine because of her “shiksappeal”. Like son like father, Mr. Lippman lunges at Elaine and renounces Judaism to prove that he doesn’t just like her because she’s a “shiksa”. Even Rabbi Glickman hits on her when she seeks his advice for combating the shiksappeal (much like Kramer seeks the Latvian Orthodox priest’s advice for combating the kavorka). In the end, Elaine doesn’t date any of these guys, so they are excluded from the list.

 

rickyRicky (“The Cigar Store Indian”):  Ricky is probably the most obsessed of all of Elaine’s admirers. He creates a bouquet for her using Frank Costanza’s TV Guide and we later discover that he is the mastermind behind the “Elaine” mannequins. He and her other quasi-stalkers, like the stationary store clerk, don’t count.

 

 

kramer053Kramer (“The Watch”):  Elaine asks Kramer to pretend to be her boyfriend because she is having difficulty breaking up with Dr. Reston. As it happens, the relationship that Kramer fabricates is one of Elaine’s most decent – he states that they are in love and that they have sex five times a week. Of course, the other pretend boyfriends like Eduardo Corrochio, the matador whom she pretends to meet, or even J. Peterman who asks Elaine to “toss yourself into the mix” when she is ghost-writing his book, aren’t on the list.

The Top 40 Boyfriends

Davola40) (Crazy) Joe Davola (“The Opera”):  Crazy Joe Davola is the epitome of Elaine’s flawed judgement when it comes to men. Initially, she describes him as happy, well-adjusted and as someone who has a grip on reality. It’s only when she surprises him with a pop-in that she sees his shrine to her and realizes he’s completely crazy. Other than his being intelligent, he gets low scores in all categories. For this reason, and because of his hatred of Jerry, this tragic clown is last on the list.

Sponge-Worthy Score:  3.13

simon39) Simon (“The Soup”):  Simon is the Brit whom Elaine flies in from England using her frequent flyer miles after meeting him on a trip. Not only does he have no money and no prospects, he is condescending and picks up another woman right in front of her. Simon gets rock bottom scores in the personality, fidelity and compassion categories. This guy is nothing but a bounder and no woman wants that.

Sponge-Worthy Score:  3.23

250px-Dick38) Dick (“The Red Dot”):  Next to Crazy Joe Davola, Dick is the scariest of Elaine’s boyfriends – so scary that his coming after Elaine, Jerry and George at the end of “The Red Dot” episode is modelled after a scene from Cape Fear. One of Elaine’s many office flings, Dick is also an alcoholic who keeps falling off and getting back on the wagon. But, more importantly, he is rude to Jerry and even heckles him, which means he scores a big fat zero in the sense of humour category (Jerry is hilarious). He gets points for becoming sober by the end of the episode, otherwise he’d be at the bottom of the list beside Davola.

Sponge-Worthy Score:  3.54

Glenn37) Glenn (“The Strongbox”):  Glenn’s appeal is that he’s attractive, witty and mysterious – so mysterious that Elaine thinks he’s an adulterer (and Jerry thinks he’s the Green Lantern). Instead, it turns out he’s the ‘Got-No-Green’ Lantern because he is poor. When Elaine learns of Glenn’s poverty, she actually shows her nurturing “sugar momma” side by sticking with him and buying him furniture and appliances. In the end, she isn’t Glenn’s one and only “bear claw in the garbage bag of life” because she finds out that he is both poor and married. Glenn gets zero points for fidelity and the adultery drops all of his scores by several points.

Sponge-Worthy Score:  3.74

Owenmarch36) Owen March (“The Alternate Side”):  Elaine is in awe of this sixty-six year-old author’s intellect, so he definitely scores well in the intelligence category. While we see Elaine’s compassionate side with Glenn, we see the opposite when she chooses to break up with an infirm Owen while feeding him yankee beans. One of her break-up excuses is that it’s a bitch to get to his place. Now, before we start casting any stones, I’m sure that many of us have been in a situation where convenience has at least been taken into consideration when deciding whether or not to be with someone. In the end, we don’t feel too bad for Owen because he is just using her for sex, which gives me the impression that Owen is a George Clooney/eternal bachelor type. While many women find Clooney attractive (and many men find his lifestyle attractive), I’m more prone to the Demi Moore lifestyle, myself.

Sponge-Worthy Score:  3.94

Seinfeld_DannyStrong0135) Vincent (“The Comeback”):  Speaking of Demi Moore, Elaine carries out a blind relationship with fifteen year-old Vincent after selecting movies from his video store “picks”. She thinks he’s strange, beautiful and sensitive until his mom catches her bringing vodka, cigarettes and fireworks to his home. Obviously, this age gap is huge (and illegal), so I can’t score him well here. As an aside, based on how many younger guys like Elaine, I think she makes a pretty great cougar.

Sponge-Worthy Score: 4.22

craig34) Craig (“The Wig Master”):  The biggest problem with Craig, other than his ponytail, is that he and Elaine don’t trust each other. Elaine thinks Craig is using his ability to get a discount on a Nicole Miller dress to sleep with her and Craig thinks Elaine is using him for the discount. Due to the lack of trust – and the ponytail – Craig doesn’t score well in the personality and looks categories, respectively. Only when there is a decent amount of trust in a relationship can there be a free exchange of sex and discounts.

Sponge-Worthy Score:  4.34

penner33) Zach (“The Bookstore”):  To be fair, Zach is technically one of Elaine’s pretend boyfriends. After her co-workers catch her making out with him at a staff party, she tells them that Zach is her boyfriend so they’ll interpret the make-out session as a beautiful moment between two lovers instead of a “spirited bout of Skanko-Roman wrestling”. He doesn’t score high in the fidelity category however, because shortly after the incident he “nibbles on a love newton” in the break room with another co-worker. While one may argue that it’s a tad extreme to crumple up a woman’s phone number because she has a new, unpopular area code, that level of pickiness is better than no pickiness at all. Women want to feel like they are a man’s one and only, even in pretend boyfriend situations. Either way, as the office man-whore who is addicted to smack/white palace/Chinaman’s nightcap, Zach’s sponge-worthy score takes a hit.

Sponge-Worthy Score:  4.44

250px-Alan32) Alan Mercer (“The Andrea Doria”):  Alan stands Elaine up on their blind date (or “set-up”, as the visually impaired don’t want to be associated with all those losers) because he is stabbed by an ex-girlfriend. She learns that it’s because he is a bad breaker-upper. Yes, turns out he says the mean things that people say but don’t mean while breaking up with someone, but he means them. Alan scores poorly in the personality and compassion categories, as no one wants to hear that they have a big head, a bump on their nose or no chin – they should feel good around their significant other. Despite his stab-worthy score, Alan gets a low sponge-worthy score.

Sponge-Worthy Score:  4.65

180px-Gack31) Todd Gack (“The Calzone”):  Todd scores a date with Elaine by betting her that Dustin Hoffman is in Star Wars, which is actually a pretty good move. Jerry points out that this is a dating loophole – by not asking Elaine out directly, Todd can’t get rejected. Todd likes to send mixed signals – one of the worst kinds of daters in the dating world. When Elaine goes out to dinner with him and he brings his parents, he makes sure to point out that it’s not a date. He even walks her home and kisses her, all while not labelling anything. If a man/woman sends mixed signals and leaves the other person having no idea where they stand, 99% of the time it means that they aren’t “gaga”. Todd gets low scores in the personality, compassion and fidelity categories. Oh well, maybe he fares better on Nikki’s list.

Sponge-Worthy Score:  4.77

Fred30) Fred Yerkes (“The Secret Code”):  It’s disheartening (and a bit insulting) when someone whom you’ve clearly met before says, “Nice to meet you.” Elaine becomes infatuated with Fred because he doesn’t remember meeting her at a party, despite their party conversation involving Elaine’s uncle and Lee Harvey Oswald on the day of Kennedy assassination. I’m sure “The Game” by Neil Strauss is littered with pick-up techniques that involve not showing women attention, but normal, mentally-healthy women don’t like this. Fred doesn’t score well in the personality, looks, and “gaga” categories, and it doesn’t take Elaine long to realize that her initial attraction is just the result of a temporary psychological glitch.

Sponge-Worthy Score:  4.89

phil totola29) Phil Totola (“The Stand In”):  He took it out.

Sponge-Worthy Score:  5.00

 

 

 

bret28) Brett (“The Checks”):  Brett has a weird obsession with Karl Farbman, a furniture designer, and the song “Desperado”. Elaine thinks he’s generous and sensitive because he is moved by listening to the song, but when she tries to share “Witchy Woman” (or Witch-ay Woman) with him, he won’t share. What bothers me most about Brett is that he is condescending to Jerry (for which he gets a major points deduction). I find it strange that so many of Elaine’s boyfriends are rude to Jerry, while only one of Jerry’s girlfriends ever disrespects Elaine (Nina from “The Letter” is rude to Elaine, but there is a clear motive behind it – she is jealous). Friends are an important part of a person’s life and they should be respected by significant others – anything less is a huge red flag. If Jerry hadn’t accidentally hit Brett with an axe, I would have suggested that Elaine run away from Brett as if he were the “Boogityman”.

Sponge-Worthy Score:  5.45

Darryl27) Darryl Nelson (“The Wizard”):  Darryl and Elaine believe that they are in an interracial relationship with one another. Elaine can’t figure out if Darryl is white or black and Darryl thinks Elaine is Hispanic. Wait, should we be talking about this? Clearly, there is a communication issue here, as both aren’t comfortable asking the other about their race. Darryl scores well in most categories, except the “gaga” category. When he and Elaine find out that they are just a couple of white people, they realize that there is nothing special about the relationship. Either way, I really don’t think we’re supposed to be talking about this.

Sponge-Worthy Score:   5.76

Pinter_&_Sue_Ellen26) Peter (Pinter) Ranawat (“The Betrayal”):  We don’t know much about Peter, other than that he is about to marry Sue Ellen Mischke (the braless wonder/the O’Henry candy bar heiress) before Elaine tells everyone at the ceremony that she slept with him. Elaine describes sex with Peter as mechanical. Sex is an important part of a relationship (anyone who says otherwise is lying) and Elaine is no stranger to mediocre sex. In “The Yada Yada” she describes going out to dinner with a lawyer, eating lobster bisque, and then “yada yada”-ing the sex because it isn’t the best part of her story. It seems like Elaine would “yada yada” the sex in her story about Peter too, so he falls just shy of the top 25.

Sponge-Worthy Score:   5.86

cardic_roy_125) Roy (“The Junior Mint”):  Elaine breaks up with Roy (the artist/triangle guy) because he is too fat. Roy is kind and sensitive and loses weight because he can’t eat for weeks after Elaine stops seeing him. On one hand, Elaine is being superficial in wanting him again after he loses the weight, but on the other, mutual attraction is necessary for a happy relationship. While some say that the way a person treats waiters says a lot about their potential as a partner, it’s equally important to pay attention to how they treat themselves (at an absolute minimum, their toilet paper should be 2-ply). Roy loses points in the looks and “gaga” categories, which means this fat, starving artist is at number 25 on the list.

Sponge-Worthy Score:   5.96

the wiz24) Jack (“The Junk Mail”):  Elaine has a “totally unreal, fairy tale moment” (complete with heraldic harp music) when she first locks eyes with Jack. At first, she tries to juggle Jack and Puddy at the same time. This doesn’t work out and eventually she gets stuck with the Wiz. Jack scores well in the “gaga” category, due to Elaine’s love at first sight, even though she’s only really attracted to him because she’s remembering that old commercial. Then again, Jack loses points because his job lacks a certain type of quiet dignity. Still, he’s the Wiz and nobody beats him, except maybe the Maytag repairman (and the following 23 guys).

Sponge-Worthy Score:   6.06

250px-Braun23) Lloyd Braun (“The Non-Fat Yogurt”):  When Elaine first meets Lloyd, he has a great job advising Mayor Dinkins on everything he does (even on which soap to use), and Elaine finds him attractive. He costs Dinkins the election because he recommends Elaine’s name tag idea to him (small town NYC) and Dinkins goes for it. While encouragement from a significant other is necessary, when it comes to bad ideas, honesty is even more important. In Elaine’s defence, her idea is still better than anything currently coming out of Rob Ford’s brain (and mouth). Lloyd loses points in the intelligence and “gaga” categories, and since we find out later that Lloyd goes crazy (they may or may not have found a family in his freezer), he is only 23 on this list.

Sponge-Worthy Score:   6.36

130px-48,502,0,401-Elaine_&_Jimmy22) Jimmy (“The Jimmy”):  Jimmy is pretty sweet on Elaine. Jimmy watches her at the gym and she is just Jimmy’s type. Jimmy is new in town and doesn’t really know anyone, so Jimmy wants to get to know Elaine. Jimmy wants to put the moves on Elaine. Jimmy likes Elaine’s new dress. Jimmy’s very unusual, so Jimmy gets sidelined (again) and doesn’t make the top 20. Jimmy’s down!

Sponge-Worthy Score:   6.57

Jakejarmel21) Jake Jarmel (“The Opposite”):  Jake seems like a good match for Elaine – he is a writer and she calls him a perfect man when he goes out of his way to clean her whole apartment and make dinner for her. The problem with Jake is that he’s pretty uptight. First, they fight because he doesn’t use an exclamation point when taking down her messages! Then, when they are getting serious and are talking about moving in together, he dumps Elaine because she stops for a box of Jujyfruit after learning that he’s been in an accident (a girl’s gotta eat). While I have yet to hear of a relationship ending specifically because of punctuation, I have to admit that it’s hard not to be turned off by someone who uses incorrect variations of “there” and “your”. Jake scores high points in intelligence, but low points in sense of humour and personality. Uptight or not, his initial move to randomly feel Elaine’s jacket material (“Gabardine?”) automatically keeps him out of the top 20.

Sponge-Worthy Score:   6.67

—————

And so the Sponge-Worthy rankings continue. Check back on the Same Page next Friday for Elaine’s boyfriends ranked #20 to #1.

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Go West, Young Man: Are Pro Sports Conferences Imbalanced?

By: Dan Grant

For sports fans out there who don’t limit themselves to just one or two sports, a pattern has been emerging. In the NBA, it’s been going on for years. In the MLB and NFL, it wavers but always returns. And in the NHL, with recent realignment stacking three divisions and significantly weakening one, it’s something of a new phenomenon.

I’m talking about the sheer dominance of Western based teams.

To throw out a genuine question, I’d like to ask the following:

What is the deal with the West? NHL, NBA, NFL, MLB; it doesn’t seem to matter. The West has been dominant, not just this year but like no other collective division in sports.

Don’t believe it? Listen to the experts.

“You know, it’s just a different style out there. It’s more physical. It’s better hockey. These Eastern Conference teams can’t play that way.” – Doug Maclean of Sportsnet 360′s Hockey Central panel, commenting on the NHL’s Western Conference

“It’s almost a tragedy; Phoenix or Dallas isn’t going to make the playoffs in the West but the Knicks might make the playoffs in the East. It speaks to how much better the Western Conference is, as a whole.” – Zach Lowe of Grantland.com

“The NFC West [is] the toast of the league” – Bill Barnwell, Grantland.com

“The AFC West is also very good. So are the American and National League West divisions. This is a really handy quote” – Dan Grant, The Same Page

There you have it! Four completely different sports, operating in a variety of different markets – it seems like it all must be a giant coincidence right? Well maybe. But maybe not. Let’s take a look at some of the factors that have led to this unparalleled shift in sporting dominance.

The Blackhawks celebrate with the Cup. And they had to go through the Western Conference to win it.

The Blackhawks celebrate with the Cup. And they had to go through the Western Conference to win it.

What Does ‘West’ Mean Anyway?

Generally people only think of California/Texas/Seattle and the Southwest when considering Western Conference teams. But if you skim through the ‘Western’ divisions in the four leagues, you come across some different names.

1. The Denver area is most prominent one; they have teams in all four major North American leagues, all in either the Western Conference or division. If you look at a map, Denver is way further West than I thought! Good for you, Denver.

2. Minnesota is featured in the NBA and MLB, but in Central/Northern divisions in MLB and NFL.

3. Kansas City is in the AFC West but is also featured, more appropriately in the AL Central.

4. Ditto for St Louis in the NFC and the NL Central.

5. Oklahoma City and Portland both feature only NBA teams and both are included in the West.

6. Detroit and Chicago are all over the map, depending on the sport. They’re both in the NFC North for the NFL, the American League and National League Central in MLB, and until recently, both featured in the NHL’s Western Conference. The Red Wings have ping ponged back and forth, playing in the NHL’s Eastern Conference in the 1980′s, then moving West and finally moving back East again this year. The Blackhawks, despite bordering a Great Lake, are still in the NHL’s Western Conference. But hey, the Toronto Maple Leafs also played in the Western Conference for about 12 years, so who can judge? Besides people with eyes and maps.

Now that we know what we’re dealing with, let’s take a look a some of the things that might have contributed to the success of these teams. A caveat: obviously every team is different. Player development, scouting, coaching, ownership are the most important factors in a teams success. What I’m looking for here is a possible silver bullet, a reason why the West has come to dominate so heavily. Sound good? I thought so too.

Players like Lamar Odom (seen here with Kobe, NBD) want to play near a beach.

Players like Lamar Odom (seen here with Kobe, NBD) want to play near a beach.

Weather

Perception:  A large majority of the Western Conference teams in all four sports operate in the American Southwest, Texas and California. These are beautiful locales that are going to be popular destinations for free agent players, regardless of their background. We hear a lot about the players who care only about winning; a lot of them care about beaches and BBQ too. And don’t forget executives. Do you think team execs, who are generally a bit older and have wives and families, would rather live in LA/San Fran or Jacksonville/Memphis? It’s a real factor.

The Problem There is: A lot of Western Conference teams don’t have nice weather at all. Seattle and Portland are infamously rainy, Denver is in the Rocky Mountains (beautiful but coooold) and even northern California, well, take it away Mark Twain:

“The coldest winter I ever saw was a summer I spent in San Francisco” – Mark Twain

Let’s call this one a draw. It might be a factor in some cases but it’s definitely not the make or break point on a wider scale.

Tax-Free Texas

Perception: Many players enjoy playing in Texas because there is no state tax, lax gun laws, big pieces of meat and plenty of endorsement deals due to the giant cities of Houston and Dallas.

The Problem There is: It’s not a problem with Texas so much as the fact that this same thing is offered by Florida, which is generally included in the Eastern Conference and would seem to offset any geographical advantage. Texas has nine teams in the four major leagues; Florida has nine as well.

The Seahawks win in the Thunderdome, errr, the Super Bowl.

The Seahawks win in the Thunderdome, errr, the Super Bowl.

TV Money

Perception: Here is where things get interesting. Los Angeles is the second biggest television market in professional sports. Houston, Dallas, Phoenix and the Bay area are also massive draws. Big cities mean large populations which means big television money. This means teams generally have more money to spend on their product.

The NHL is the only league to feature a hard salary cap, meaning teams cannot exceed it for any reason. The NBA and NFL feature a similar system with a luxury tax, where teams can go over the salary cap for a variety of reasons; teams are generally more willing to do this if they have favourable television deals and money pouring in, as they penalized financially for doing so. MLB doesn’t have any kind of restrictions on salaries, beyond a loose team threshold (close to 200 million per season) after which teams need to pay tax to the lower spending teams in the league. In other words, if you got the skrilla, go dancing.

Check out the newly flush Los Angeles Dodgers, who just signed the richest television deal in the history of North American sports. They’re obliterating Major League Baseball’s soft tax threshold and increasing their spending each season. Not far in the rear-view are their friends in the American League, the Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers. If you look at the NBA, the Lakers and Mavericks ranks among the most consistent teams to pay the luxury tax. In the NFL, the 49ers are one of the leagues most storied franchises, the Broncos are a current superpower and the Seahawks just won their first Super Bowl. In the NHL, the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks have won titles in the past few years, becoming the first California based teams to do so. The San Jose Sharks have emerged as a consistent contender with a dedicated fan base and committed ownership group.

The Problem There is: Nothing really. This is undoubtedly a major reason why so many Western Conference teams are becoming so successful. Money talks. These teams are supported by the fact that where they’re located geographically makes living in major cities a necessity, which lends them the ability to push the limits of their sport. The East features New York, Boston, Toronto and Chicago, but when you couple it with other factors, the West almost certainly gains an advantage here.

The Dodger players can't believe how much money has been spent on their team.

The Dodger players can’t believe how much money has been spent on their team.

Prove It, Egghead

Very well! In the past 20 years, 78 championships have been awarded in the four major North American sports (both MLB and the NHL missed a title).

The West has won… drum roll please… 11 of 19 Stanley Cups, 5 of 20 Super Bowls, 4 of 19 World Series and 12 of 20 NBA titles, for a total of 32 out of the 78 titles. In the past ten years, this number is 14 out of 39, or just over a third.

When you consider there are six divisions to draw from in both the NFL and MLB, it appears that the West is clearly over-represented, if only slightly.

The thing is, this trend is something that is only increasing. The eighth seed in the NBA’s Western Conference might have a better record than the 3rd seed in the East. The Dodgers and Rangers are poised to be long time powers in MLB, to say nothing of the free spending Angels, and the San Francisco Giants, who won two World Series in the past four seasons. The Blackhawks, already mentioned, are hockey’s closest thing to a current dynasty and they play in the West.

All Western teams have had success at times; never have they all been so successful at one time.

It remains to be seen if the trend continues. But to me, this feels like the beginning of a larger conversation.

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