What It’s Like to be a Washington Capitals Fan

It’s now been a few days since the NHL’s Washington Capitals’ season ended without raising the Stanley Cup.  This is the 36th season in a row that this has happened.  In fact, it’s happened every single year of the franchise’s existence.  As fans, we’ve come to expect that.

Unfortunately, for us fans, it’s not just that the Caps have failed to win the Stanley Cup.  It’s how they’ve done it.

Photo Courtesy Yahoo Sports

They’ve made the playoffs 22 of their 36 seasons.  But, in those 22 playoff opportunities, they’ve lost to a lower seeded team 13 times and lost after leading in the series 16 times, include four losses when they were up three games to one in a seven game series.  For more about the futility, you can read about it at Japers’ Rink.

Somehow, we fans keep coming back each year with eternal optimism and hope that “this season” is our year.  We somehow sign up to suffer again.

Yes, it’s just sports.  “At least you have your health,” my grandmother used to say.  We’ve not lost our job, been hit by a tornado or lost our home to a flood.  Being a Washington Capitals’ fan is frustrating and disappointing.

Want to understand?  Being a Caps’ fan feels like:

  • Drinking a delicious McDonald’s egg nog or mint shake on the last day of their short Christmas and St. Patrick’s Day availability, knowing you have to wait 11 months to get another.
  • Getting a front row ticket for the last show of a limited run musical or play, only to have the understudies perform and ruin it.
  • Driving from Miami to New York on I-95 at 10 mph over the speed limit and making the best time you’ve every made, but then getting a speeding ticket in New Jersey for going 56 in a 55 mph zone.
  • Attending a mid-season baseball game and being stuck in a beer line while your team comes back from 10 runs down, but then returning to your seat just in time to watch them let the other team win by committing three errors in a row.
  • Buying the latest DVR to record a show you’ve been dying to see and isn’t on again for a few months, then returning home to learn a sudden thunderstorm ruined the satellite signal.
  • Finally getting reservations at the best restaurant in town just before it closes for renovations, getting dressed up with your spouse, and then busting a fan belt on the way there.
  • Buying an upper-deck seat to a concert, slowly moving towards the stage occupying empty seats, but then getting kicked out by security after the seatholder arrives 90 minutes after the concert starts.
  • Waiting all summer with you group of best friends to visit your local amusement park on the last weekend of the season, then finding out that all of your favorite rides are closed for the season already.
  • Watching a fantastic, suspenseful movie on DVD, having the DVD crap out 10 minutes before the end, and not having another copy when it’s already too late to run back to the store.
  • Getting hours or days deep into World of Warcraft or Portal 2 or Halo, only to have the Internet die and realize that none of your progress had been saved.
  • Waiting four years of college to ask out the girl you first saw freshman year, having her say yes, planning out a spectacular date on the last night before you fly home, but then being forced to cancel because your mom needs you to take her to the doctor to get her boils lanced.

But, wait!!

Now imagine if any of those things happened to you, not once, but over again in 22 of the last 36 years.

That, my friends, is what it’s like to be Washington Capitals’ fan.

Flying to Manila – The Atlanta to Tokyo Leg

Yesterday (or I guess, technically, the day before yesterday), I left 45 degree St. Louis and made my way to 85 degree Manila. I woke up at 5:30am CDT in St. Louis Monday and went to bed in my hotel in Manila at about 1:30am Wednesday. By my calculations that’s 31 hours.

I’ll try to give some thoughts on Manila itself after I’ve been here a few days. For now, I’d like post some photos of the trip itself. I flew Delta from St. Louis to Atlanta, Tokyo and Manila. Althoug my flights weren’t spot on time, I made my connections with ease.

From Atlanta to Tokyo, I was on a Delta 777 in Business Elite, which feature its herringbone layout.

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My seat (or “suite”) had a seat and a footrest. The gap between was closed when the bed went flat. It was comfortable, but it lacked in real storage space for anything other than a magazine or book. I ended up putting things behind the chair. You’ll note from the pictures that my 5’6″ frame barely got my feet to the footrest. Taller folks you’re in good shape.

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Here are a few more shots from this leg: the seat controls, not as confusing as they look, with a convenient USB port beneath, the large tray that pulls out and the TV screen, the ridiculously large piece of salmon for dinner, and the vanilla ice cream sundae for dessert.

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All-in-all, this was an above average experience if only for the flat beds that, when combined with an Ambien, led to at least six hours sleep. The primary negative was the malfunctioning AV system, on which shows would appear randomly. I selected Black Swan, and I got Man vs. Food. I love Adam Richman, but I wanted Natalie Portman.

Next post on my Tokyo to Manila leg. Spoiler: the AV system worked!

A Tweeting Ovechkin is a Happy Ovechkin is a Winning Ovechkin

On January 30, 2009, Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals stopped tweeting.

Ovechkin's Last Tweet for 14 Months

Suddenly, on March 2, 2011, he returned.

Yes! A Tweeting Ovechkin!

In just under two weeks since this tweet, Ovechkin has tweeted another 65 times.  Since his return to Twitter on March 2, the Capitals have won 5 games in a row.  Scoring in each of these 5 games, Ovechkin has 2 goals and 5 assists, a game winning goal, and the only shoot out goal in a victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

After Beating the Blues 3-2 on March 3

Going back a bit farther, the Capitals have won 9 of their last 10 games, and Ovechkin has 4 goals and 8 assists in those 9 victories.  If it wasn’t for a 6-0 beat down at the hands of the New York Rangers, Ovechkin might very well have a 10 game point streak on its hands.

After Beating the Lightning on March 7

Statistics show that the Caps have improved this season on defense, but statistics also show that Ovechkin is having a bad year (or at least one less productive than earlier years).  Pundits say that Ovie is weighed down by the Capitals’ playoff failures and Team Russia’s Olympic failures.  They say that he isn’t himself, and that he might be hurt.

Now, Ovechkin’s point streak and the Capitals’ success are leaving some of these critics with nothing to say.  When other teams see a happy Ovechkin, an Ovechkin slamming against the boards after scoring, an Ovechkin enjoying himself, an Ovechkin tweeting again, they are scared.  Nothing appears to be weighing him down now.  Whatever “himself” is, that’s what Ovechkin is now.  And that’s good for the Caps and their fans.

Thanks for Letting Us Know!

The Cheerleading Competition

Last weekend I drove with my wife and daughter to a cheerleading competition in Duluth, Georgia. My daughter’s team is the “Burn” from Spirit Elite in St. Peter’s, Missouri.  We were able to watch the Burn compete, but also able to visit with two of my sisters and their kids, all of whom live in the Atlanta area.

This is cheerleading as in ESPN2 late night or as in the movie Bring It On and its four direct-to-video sequels. (Who knew there were four sequels to Bring It On?)

It’s loud music, dance, and tumbling. There are also lifts and the tossing of “flyers” high in the air. The teams perform and compete after weeks of practice.

When I watch my daughter, I’m very engaged. The atmosphere at a competition, however, is nearer to  “Toddlers and Tiaras” than a football game.  There are hundreds of girls (and some boys) dressed in similar uniforms, with similar lipstick, glitter, and bows.

But don’t kid yourself about the niceness of competition.  It’s hard-core.  Each team finds out their score within minutes after they perform, and the score is announced in front of the entire room.  They are told at that time whether they are in 1st, 2nd or 3rd or worse.  If they are in first, they are allowed to sprint across the stage and sit in the “Leaders’ Lounge.”  There is nothing better than sprinting to the lounge to displace the squad that was in 1st up to the moment your score was announced.

Just as you might see at football or hockey games, parents are dressed in team colors and team paraphernalia. Some dads wear shirts with their daughter’s name on the back. I make fun of those dads a lot, but I understand the pride with which they wear it.  These girls work hard and deserve the rewards.

The Burn finished second in their age and level group.  They were less than a tenth of a point from first.  They were disappointed, but they made their parents proud.

The Main Stage and Award Area at Right

Ready to Go

Individual Lifts

Full Extension!

Finding Out the Results

Watching the Next Team from the Leaders' Lounge

One Man’s Obsession – The NHL Trading Deadline

Yesterday at work, I was preoccupied with something of incredible importance:  the National Hockey League trading deadline.

Of course, I’m being snarky about the “incredible importance.”  At the same time, for hockey fans, the trade deadline is an amazing time of anticipation, prognostication, jubilation, and humiliation (see what I did there?).

For you uneducated — this deadline marks the last time in the season that teams can trade players or draft picks.  After the deadline (February 28 at 3:00pm EST), NHL teams only have a limited number of roster changes they can make for the rest of the season, typically by calling up players from their top minor league affiliate.

I’m already an obsessed hockey fan, but this day qualifies as the most obsessive.  This obsession is fed by the media, but enjoyed by the fans.  TSN (Canada’s ESPN) started wall-to-wall coverage six hours before the deadline.  Twitter was awash with special hash tags, massive speculations, and made-up stories.  Japers’ Rink, a board for Caps’ fans that I frequent, had over 4,300 posts from early morning ideas through to evening commentary.

As fans, we were faced yesterday with questions of global importance  such as whether the Washington Capitals will add a center for their second line, whether the Dallas Stars will trade their soon-to-be-free-agent superstar, and whether the Florida Panthers or Ottawa Senators will begin to dismantle their teams by trading players for draft picks and minor leaguers.

(The answers, by the way are:  yes, no, yes, no.)

To get these answers, I had to stay connected all day.  Twitter was on the iPhone and iPad, as I went from meeting to meeting.  The browser was open on my desk, tuned to Japers’ Rink and twitter.  I watched a ticker from TSN, as I was on conference calls in my office.  I then caught wrap up shows on XM Radio driving home and on NHL Network when I got home.  I relived every moment.

For fans like me, the trading deadline is what election day is to political folk, Oscar night is to movie fans, and the American Idol or Dancing with the Stars finale night are to some television watchers.  It’s a day to revel in fandom and the excitement of the moment.

It is indeed an obsession, but an enjoyable one.

I’m Back

So my last post (not about weight loss) was October 29, 2010.  That’s 121 days ago.  It’s time to start writing again.

I thought nearly every day about posting something, but just couldn’t seem to find the time or make it a priority.  I changed jobs at my company right about then.  I was about to embark on a weight loss program that I would document (but even that documentation quickly fell by the wayside).  We were also in the final stages of planning for my daughter’s bat mitzvah, which went off without nary a hitch on February 12.  (By the way – I did lose that 13 pounds in 13 weeks.)

I missed writing.  I missed writing a lot.  I had started over the summer time with a goal to write every single day.  I even created sections of my blog where I’d write on a different topic every day.  It was ambitious, for sure.  But, to be honest, I needed the blog to distract me from a very difficult time at work, one where there were many days that I thought I would get let go.  When you have very little to do, and no one seems to care, that’s a bad sign.  When you have a wife and two kids to support and you think you might lose your job every day, that’s not good for your psyche.  So, I dove into Life With Spidey and had a lot of fun with it.

Last July, I saw an internal posting for a job that could end my angst and worry and bring me back to a job I had done and loved before. I saw the job posting by accident, as I’m not one who trolls our internal postings looking for another opportunity.  Flash forward a few months later, and I am up to my gills in work that I really enjoy and seemingly have that job security that I so longed for.

This morning, I read an article in this morning’s New York Times about the writer and creator of Dooce.com.  It’s an interesting article, partly about Dooce.com founder Heather Armstrong and how she went about creating a blog that millions of folks read and partly about the phenomenon of mommy blogs.  While I have zero ambition to grow Life With Spidey into Dooce.com, reading about how she continued to blog through life’s ups and downs spurred me to sit down at my computer and start writing again.

So, it’s time to restart.  Here we go.

The Fully Transparent Diet – Down 7lbs. After Seven Weeks

Last Thursday, I made my weight by the skin of my teeth.  I weighed 186.2, down exactly 7 pounds after seven weeks.  Still on pace.

Thumbs Up for Week Seven

I knew I was going to have problems, and I worked my tail off (almost literally) in the days before Wednesday night.  Wednesday night, I took my team out to Maggiano’s for a holiday dinner.  If you’ve been to Maggiano’s, you know what the food is.  You also know that the best deal at Maggiano’s is the all-you-can eat family style meal.  In short, with the family style, you pay a flat amount per person, select some appetizers, salads, entrees and desserts and then eat as much as  you want of each.  Wednesday morning, I weighed 185.2.  Great shape, right?  Well, Thursday morning I was a pound heavier.  Thank goodness for hard work in advance.

The diet, in general is going well.  I’m exercising a lot, and ran 5 miles in 46 minutes on the treadmill yesterday.  Tonight (Monday), I ran 4.4 miles in 44 minutes, but that includes a four-minute cool-down period.  I use the Nike+GPS application on my iPhone when running.  It measures pretty well, even indoors.  What I like, however, are the congratulations you get at the end from people like Lance Armstrong and Tracy Morgan.  Tonight, Tracy told me that I had run more miles this week than last and that he “was proud of me.”  That’s kind of neat.

I continue to believe that losing a pound per week is a perfect pace.  You can enjoy evenings out, not worry at parties, and still lose the weight.  I’m confident that I will hit the weight again this week.

The Fully Transparent Diet – Down 6.7lbs. After Six Weeks

Very good week this week.  I weighed at 186.5 pounds this week, beating my goal of 187.2 by .7 pounds.  I’m doing well.

Thumbs Up for Week Six

This also means that I lost 1.1 pounds this week.  That’s exactly what I want to do, and I’m in good shape, just 0.3 pounds away from my goal of 186.2 pounds this week.

Looking back on the week, it was somewhat uneventful.  No big meals out of the office.  No bat mitzvahs or bar mitzvahs over the weekend.

This week will be a bit more challenging.  I’m taking my team at work out to Maggiano’s for the holidays.   You know, the chain that serves Italian food family-style?  I’ll need to make sure my exercise is in order all week and need to be as careful as I can while out.

No photos this week.  I kept forgetting to take it.  But all is well.  Goal of 180.2 by end of January is well in sight.

The Fully Transparent Diet – Down 5.6lbs. After Five Weeks

This past Thursday, I weighed in at 187.6 pounds.  The bad news is that 187.6 pounds means that I gained 0.1 pounds in week five.  The good news is that I did it despite the fact that the week included Thanksgiving, two Hanukkah parties complete with homemade latkes, and a trip to an NHL game to see the Capitals play the Blues. It’s a bit of a moral victory to only gain 0.1 pounds. I worked hard on days where I could to achieve that.  In fact, on Wednesday morning, I weighed in at 186.5, my low water mark, but then promptly went to the Caps game that night and had chicken fingers and french fries.

Thumbs Up for Week Five

There continues to be very good news on the exercise front.  As promised, I varied the exercise and went over to our local JCC to swim last Tuesday.  As I should have known, the muscles used for swimming must be dramatically different than those used for running.  After 10 minutes of swimming at a slow pace, I was dog-tired. I was swimming so slow, that I thought I was going to drown, but I was still tired!  I haven’t gotten back out there yet, but I plan to on Tuesday.  I’m excited.

The running couldn’t be going better.  Today I ran for 40 minutes.  I ran the first 20 at a 6mph pace, the next 15 at 6.5mph and the final 5 at 7mph.  To make it even better, I wasn’t really gasping for breath at the end.

So, on to this week.  I need to be at 187.2 by Thursday morning, and I’m convinced I can get there.  I have three days of work, with no lunches out of the office, and we have nothing in the evenings.  If I get in three days of exercise, including swimming on Tuesday, and do well in the evenings, I will be fine.

We’ll see.  As always, if you wish to follow my progress, you can do so on Twitter @andymayer13.  You can view photo progress of my weight loss by clicking on the link above.

Engage with Grace – Things to Be Grateful For This Thanksgiving

For three years running now, many of us bloggers have participated in what we’ve called a “blog rally” to promote Engage With Grace [www.engagewithgrace.org] – a movement aimed at making sure all of us understand, communicate, and have honored our end-of-life wishes.

The rally is timed to coincide with a weekend when most of us are with the very people with whom we should be having these unbelievably important conversations – our closest friends and family.

The One Slide

At the heart of Engage With Grace are five questions designed to get the conversation about end-of-life started. We’ve included them at the end of this post.  They’re not easy questions, but they are important – and believe it or not, most people find they actually enjoy discussing their answers with loved ones.  The key is having the conversation before it’s too late.

This past year has done so much to support our mission to get more and more people talking about their end-of-life wishes. We’ve heard stories with happy endings … and stories with endings that could’ve (and should’ve) been better. We’ve stared down political opposition.  We’ve supported each other’s efforts.  And we’ve helped make this a topic of national importance.

So in the spirit of the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend, we’d like to highlight some things for which we’re grateful.

Thank you to Atul Gawande for writing such a fiercely intelligent and compelling piece on “letting go” [http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/08/02/100802fa_fact_gawande]– it is a work of art, and a must read.

Thank you to whomever perpetuated the myth of “death panels” for putting a fine point on all the things we don’t stand for, and in the process,  shining a light on the right we all have to live our lives with intent – right through to the end.

Thank you to TEDMED [http://www.thehealthcareblog.com/the_health_care_blog/2010/10/engage-with-grace.html] for letting us share our story and our vision.

And of course, thank you to everyone who has taken this topic so seriously, and to all who have  done so much to spread the word, including sharing The One Slide.