Saturday, January 24, 2009

America's Hot New Philosophy

If you, like me and apparently the entire freakin' country, were trolling the streets of the district like zombies on an everlasting trek for brains, you might have seen or heard the hot new buzzword that has swept the nation: optimism.

Maybe you saw it emblazoned in the most friendliest of corporate manner on your local metrobus? Maybe you heard one of the countless pundits who you now have grown a strange sudden interest to say it? Or, maybe you heard it in a place we here at the DC Optimist have been chanting it for the past two years or so: in the DC sports landscape.

In today's paper, maybe you had to divert your eyes from the dizzying highs of the winning part of the sports region (Barry Svrluga's poignant profile of the popularity surge in Alex Ovechkin and his first-place hockey team) to witness the never insurmountable lows of last-placitude (Chico Harlan's report on a luncheon involving Nationals brass and the people). But buried in the suffering of that report is that hot little buzzword permeating the region, and it was uttered by none other than this site's patron saint, Manny Acta. When discussing how totally better the Nats will be next year, Acta described himself as "optimistic, not realistic."

In that delicious quotation, Acta went ahead and again won our hearts and cemented himself as the quintessential manager to ever fill out a lineup card.

But that's not the last of the 'tism fest that is sweeping the local sports nation. During this euphoric Caps' renaissance, we profiled the utter rightness of rookie defenseman Karl Alzner. After receiving this quote via email earlier from my co-optimist, I realized that gee, even when he is sent down, Karl Alzner handles it the right way. Per Tarik El-Bashir's Capitals Insider: "Ever the optimist, Karl Alzner doesn't mind being back with the Bears."

Take notice America, and potential TV show producers looking for the perfect blog to make a TMX-like show about, optimism is taking this nation by storm. And with the way that has trickled down to the areas of our sporting locale that seem to need it most, you can thank yourself for knowing where it originated. Tism is king.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Flyer Than the Rest of Em

I for one, have no problem with the democratic process. I am happy with the results of the presidential election, and whatever is coming up in light of that decision. I find voting to be a heroic act by those flexing their god-given freedom of selection. However, as we discovered eight and four years ago, oftentimes, the wrong mother-effer is picked number one by the voting public. With the big swearing in getting ready to absorb everyone in the district and outlying region's attention and Metro breathing room, it was nice to see that another major mistake made by voters was being rectified last night in Pittsburgh.

I don't know if you read another one of those seemingly ill-timed Mike Wise 'tism defibrillator charges that was printed in the paper yesterday, but it was something about how Washington Capital and Hart Trophy pwner Alex Ovechkin is essentially inherently superior to that oft-injured other occasionally mentioned in the same breath guy, and the NHL just can't bear to realize that. The results of the NHL's dubious marketing scheme led to a duo of out-of-contention teammates from Western Pennsylvania absorbing more votes than their far superior rival from DC. As was the case when W was elected twice, the voters got it wrong twice, and yesterday's convincing performance by the Caps was a personification of that. Instead of being seen chipping in on game-tying, -winning, and -sealing goals, the number-one vote getter was seem limping off the ice, trying in vain to dive into a game-salvaging poor referee call. Simply put, yesterday was Ovechkin's inauguration. Oh, and as for the #2 vote getter? Became suspiciously absent from the post first-period portion of the game, where the Caps wrestled away their rust and began their steady 6-cylinder firing. If there was any doubt that the preferable candidate was not properly chosen by the public, Ovie's third period sealed that doubt, much in the same way the Wizards seal down that number one overall lottery pick in their nightly efforts.

While I wasn't one of the supposed millions who somehow elected the guy pretending to be hurt all the time as the number one all-star, I may be able to understand if they find shock that their decision was made poorly. I'm sure those people who saw Katrina wash away much of New Orleans, the country toil in an unjust war, and grammatical atrocities becoming the latest bumper sticker slogans became ashamed as well. And they took action by electing Obama, right?

Yep, a far-reaching Washington-related timely metaphor. Sorry to steal your latest PTI bit, Kornheiser. I must say that I was inspired to put this piece together by another local superstar, Rapper Wale. After hearing it for the first time likely forever after everyone else did, I found what has to be pumping out Mike Green's Laborgini speakers: This Anthem. While it is known to the hockey savvy that Ovechkin plays in signature CCM skates, last night it became obvious that Ovie wears "Nike Boots."

Monday, January 5, 2009

Karl Alzner Does Things The Right Way

It was sometime during the lull of a Capitals home win, with the lull coming solely from the almost mundane feeling of an assured guaranteed victory, when I started thinking, "How come there is almost never any lapses of concentration, any complete screw-ups that lead to inevitable Ls anymore? Why doesn't this Caps team screw up anymore?" I mean, when teams are injury depleted, they end up thinking about lottery picks, which overpaid dude on their roster they should deal, how they can rebound when after a promising start every offensive weapon spent time on the shelf. Not these first-place Capitals. And especially not at the insanely popular and populous Verizon Center, where nobody other than the Caps ever wins a game, and instead only attends try to luck themselves out of another Ovie highlight. It is strangely settling. So, it was during this over-extended thought that I found a person who embodies that stable-throughout-the-organization infallibility and I found it in Karl Alzner.

When he was drafted --- during a DCO-attended draft party, where the of-course-they-were-awesome uniform change was introduced, and Bobtimist Prime awkwardly attempted to elicit funny from serious professionals --- Alzner was lauded for his all-around game. His top-to-bottom housing of defensive essentials and leadership qualities, his captainship of championship Canadian National juniors, winning defense awards in junior; basically he had everything.

And while it took a few weeks for his arrival in DC, and this unfortunate rash of injuries, it is clear that he embodies this bizarre, mistake-free nature of the 2008-2009 Caps. I mean, he has yet to take a penalty in an NHL game. He does the right things. So often in fact, that we think he does things the right way in every aspect of life.

Did you know Karl Alzner also:

- always uses his turn signal, especially when he is like, travelling south on 16th street and he is in the right lane and someone is parked and he has to get over

- rarely crowds to doors of the Metro, when he gets on, even if it is in like the boondocks of Wheaton station, he heads middle, freeing up that space for people to enter and exit the train. Only in the instance where he is getting out of the doors in a crowded train to let people on does he crowd the doors. All of this is done without holding the doors up like a jerk. Plus he

- knows EXACTLY where that intersection in Dupont is, without looking smarmy about it, or questioning your decision mentally or verbally about your location choice. He doesn't even joke with tourists about the location of J street, which would befuddle them.

- PROMPTLY moves his CORT truck, which unfortunately may have douple-parked you into a spot on P Street. He wouldn't even make you have to call his supervisor twice or lean on the horn in your finest imitation of Verizon Center's Horn Guy.

- If there were ever an occasion where he choked out of two game-winning baskets, including one terrible attempt at eliciting favortism that was for the first time in history correctly called by an official, Alzner would never ever deny the obvious-to-everyone-on-the-planet fact that he travelled and that for the first time in history, he was called for it. Nor would he even come close to crying to the officials if ever he was called for a mistake.

No, Karl Alzner does the right things when duty is called upon him. I was talking with the DC Optimist about this, and he thought similarly. Like how he likely gives out money to the less fortunate, homeless folk out there on Fun street before the games. Even that funny dude with the raps about how he needs a beer. I mean, like he's not suckered by the bums, but he'll hook up one of the more-clever ones like that dude. Like, if he were loaned something, he'd return it, and his home wouldn't be adorned with "Ned Flanders' Property." But, he'd also loan that stuff out without question, as was the case with Ned Flanders' TV tray.

Despite being a fantastic stay-at-home defenseman mainly adept at getting the puck out, he still plays physically. But that physicality would never translate to picking fights with defenseless people. While he does not get penalty minutes, ever at all, if he were, in some bizarro-world where leading rookies in ice-time, and becoming a key penalty killer translated to 19 penalty minutes and a game misconduct, it wouldn't be during a 6-1 loss to the Florida Panthers.

If Karl Alzner was behind you in line at McDonalds and realized that you were fifty cents short of getting a 20-piece McNuggets meal, he would have gone a head and placed two quarters on the counter.

That lost wallet, that he would better serve to throw away? He's dropping it off in your mailbox just in time to pay off those gambling loans, like if he were to find Rick Tocchett's wallet.

He'd help a stranded person; he wouldn't abandon them during crucial-final-three-games-of-the-season moments. If he were sacked and ended up giving up the game-winning fumble to allow perrenial fakers like the friggin' Eagles into the playoffs, he'd never faintly grasp his helmet with two dramatic, pained hands, bantering to an audience of idiots who might determine this pathetic display of worthlessness as a result of playing hard and hurt.

No, Alzner does things with the correct amount of rightness. So if you may still have some question as to what happened to that mistake-prone Caps team of old, just be ensured that the Capitals, as the did when they let this fledgling online outlet of 'tism walk amongst their employees, have done so many things right lately. And Alzner embodies that.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Calder for Bourque?

After the Capitals’ stirring road victory over the Sabres on Tuesday, we at the DC Optimist feel it reasonable to ask: should Chris Bourque garner consideration for the Calder trophy, given to the NHL’s most outstanding rookie, for his game-changing first period goal in Buffalo?

It was a crucially important game for the Capitals, if all this talk of demon-exorcising from Bruce II is to be believed. It was a game in a building in which the Capitals traditionally met an ugly demise, against a team that, for whatever reason, seemed to have the Caps’ number over the years (Eastern Conference finals notwithstanding). To paraphrase the reigning Jack Adams winner (en route to a repeat), these are the games the Caps have to start winning, the venues the team has to start conquering, if they are to be champions.

This could be the confidence-building win that, ultimately, pushes the Caps towards that over-the-top territory they are so desperately seeking and, given the utterly ridiculous AHL-resembling of their roster due to injury after injury after baffling injury, they ultimately deserve.

All that being said, how could the league not take notice of Bourque’s first career goal, that adeptly buried long rebound that gave the Capitals a 2-0 advantage, leading directly to Craig Laughlin’s traditional proclamation that another Caps’ goal would mean “lights out” for the opposition. Ultimately, this game-breaking goal led to just that.

Not to alarm Caps fans, but there is this slight possibility that Bourque may be snubbed despite his objectively pure qualifications for the award. Therefore, we pre-emptively cite the example of equally
snubbed would-be MLB All-Star-Game-MVP Dmitri Young

In the 2007 version of the game that can still end in a tie (is a Donovan McNabb joke at this point considered dated? Can we still make that tie-related joke?), Young stoked a 9th inning rally with a two-out infield single. The eventual triumph of the National League would not have been possible without it, yet Young was denied most valuable player considerations afterwards.

Similarly, this magnificent rebound goal by Bourque made possible this victory in Buffalo so badly needed for the Caps’ Cup-seeking psyche. While Nicklas Backstrom may nominally hold the game winning goal for this contest (courtesy of that meaningless post-empty-netter tally by Buffalo’s Clark MacArthur with 11 seconds left), it was Bourque the Younger’s tally that ultimately, truly won this game for the Caps.

Finally, since it’s the New Year (irrelevant, but who cares, let’s press on), we'll play a game of If The Playoffs Began Today. If the playoffs began today, the Capitals would play…the Penguins in the first round. You remember the Penguins, right? That team of baby darlings that so charmed us last spring with their little playoff run, and who were such a lazy popular pick amongst hockey experts to repeat as Eastern Conference Champions, and who are apparently completely unable to deal with the nasty little injury bug as well as the Caps have. Yes, those Penguins.

Talk about exorcising demons. A clean first-round sweep of the Pens would do more to bolster the post-season confidence of the Caps and their fans than any number of 3-1 series leads held on to in 1998 could ever do. All this assumes the Penguins make the playoffs, of course, and don’t fall into the pit of expectation-choking-away that befell the Dallas Cowboys in the past month.

Regardless, give Chris Bourque his due for the goal that may well push the Caps to the next level. A text-based postgame conversation between myself and DCO’s Bobitmist Prime on Tuesday acknowledged that Chris faces stiff Calder competition from Karl Alzner and Simeon Varlamov, but we can, and should, all hope that his heroics will ultimately be recognized league-wide.