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The Most Interesting Men In The NHL

 

First things first:  My latest USA Today bit – basically, media members complain about cliches, but go holier-than-thou when Burrish says he hates Pronger, or Kane says he loves cabbies. Don’t beat the fun out of guys (or cabbies).

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Good morning!  Let’s start by talking about an imaginary trade.  Yay!

The rumour that was mentioned yesterday was Spezza to Columbus for their fourth overall pick and Brassard, which I hadn’t heard. 

I like grinning. Yep, I "grin", not smile. Grin grin grin.

If that were to be true (and there’s already an “it’s not” comment following it up, but lets bat it around because it’s June), I could understand it. 

The fourth overall pick is probably going to be a good one, but picks are never a lock to pan out.  There’s plenty of stories about NHL busts.  So if you can turn that pick and a good player into one of the top forwards in the league, Columbus could justify getting that aggressive.  Especially since they’d like to be good sooner than later.

And, it would make sense for Ottawa.  You’re not going to get a better return on the goofy-faced Spezza than that, and while it’s a gamble, you never know – there’s plenty of successful 4th overall picks, too.  That’s part of the fun of trading for draft picks.

So who knows.  The best part of debating that imaginary (and unlikely) trade, is it brings me to this point I wanted to make:

Individual players sell more tickets than teams. 

Scary good.

If you’re Columbus, having two heavyweight stars for your fans to enjoy night in, night out takes the pressure off the usual ”if we’re not winning this isn’t fun to watch” mindset.  At least it buys you some time and shows you care about the fans.  I know it’s part of the reason I didn’t wanna go to Coyotes games (like, at all) when I first moved here.  Who was I going to watch?  Hate to break it to you Coyote loyalists, but Doaner isn’t exactly a thrill-a-shift.

Aw, man, you see that?  He just totally worked hard, finished his check and kept his stick in passing lanes!  How fundamentally sound CAN YOU BE?!?

Of all the teams I saw here this year (seven or eight?), Pavel Datsyuk stood out the most – can’t wait to watch him the next time he’s back in town.  I WILL be in the building.

I don’t want to watch the Buffalo Sabres, a team that wins without a star (Vanek is slo-mo ’til he gets a chance). 

I’m just not entertained by quality team play.

Are you?

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Like, I wanna know what he's saying right now.

I tweeted this last night, but it’s an awesome question: Who are the most interesting people in the NHL?  Who is it that, when they talk, you listen?  Who’s got personality, who do you always want to know what they’re up to?

So far I’ve got: Brian Burke, Patrick Kane, Chris Pronger, Adam Burrish (yes, he’s that good of a quote machine already), Sean Avery, and Alex Ovechkin.

Twitter responses included Ilya “what is love” Bryzgalov, Alex Kovalev, Ryan Kesler, and actually, Avery.  I missed him at first, but he’s a must-include.

To quote PTI…. who ya got?

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Yesterday the Toronto Maple Leafs unveiled their old new jerseys, and announced Dion Phaneuf as their captain.  And I liked it all.

Pic by Pension Plan Puppets (Also Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers

First off, you can’t EVER change the Leafs jersey, or folks in Toronto would revolt.  Fans of that franchise have a crazy sense of grandeur and history, which is somewhat insane, since they haven’t won a Cup in well over four decades.  And don’t get me wrong, I’ll say it with pride - I like the Toronto Maple Leafs.  But god help us all if they ever win another cup.  That city will become insufferable. 

Ahem, anyway.  They jersey’s are nice, in that they look like all their older, also nice ones.

As for Phaneuf, you can’t deny he’s the right choice for captain, and that team needs one.  I thought his “speech” was HORRRRRRIBLE though.  It reminded me so much of the Tiger Woods “prepared statement”, only Phaneuf looked far more guilty than Tiger.  It looked like he didn’t think he deserved to be captain or something.  C’mon Dion, embrace it! 

You’re officially Captain Maple Leaf.

 

Monday Playoff Round-Up, Plus Videos!

 

As per usual, if you’d like to read my writing in coherent, organized form, here’s my latest piece for USA Today.  It’s on “those moments” that unify a team throughout the year, and how a team needs them to be dangerous in playoffs.  Cool?  Alright then.  Lets move on.

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BUFFALO / BOSTON

Johnny Boychuck hit that Matt Ellis guy, and I immediately thought “there’s not way that guy is a regular NHL player”.

 

 

(No one on the Sabres could even fake anger on that one.)

Have you ever seen someone skate for so long with the puck before getting hit by someone right in front of him?  At the NHL level?  He’s not even looking back for a pass, or trying to make a move, he’s literally looking down at the puck like a rec leaguer, to make sure he has it while he gets on his horse.

So, I pulled up his career stats to learn about the guy - I’m a little befuddled, and looking for some answers.  This year he had 3 and 10 for 13, so he doesn’t score.  He played in 72 of 82 games, but only had 12 PIMS, so he doesn’t fight much.  I assume he grinds it out, but usually grinders take a few PIMS, have a few scraps, somethin’. 

Sabres fans…. defend your boy!  That play was bizarre.

And then to top it off, Mark Recchi hits Tim Kennedy, and Kennedy looks like he was upset that Recchi was trying so hard.  There wasn’t even any effort to get up and back into the play by Kennedy.  Totally disheartening if you’re on the bench, and you watch your teammate get that pwned.  And of course, kudos to the old guard – he made a smart play with the puck the second he got it too, and two was all the Bruins would need! 

Fun series.  Weee!

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VANCOUVER / LA

This series is making me bummed that they’re playing each other, cause I want them both to advance.  Very fun to watch.

It’s already becoming clear that there won’t be a person in the media who doesn’t pick Doughty to win the Norris next year (if they didn’t already vote for him this one).

Kid is slick.

{Quick Tangent – I couldn’t help but think last night – okay, as of tonight, current playoff teams are going with Andrew Raycroft, Carey Price, Semyon Varlamov and Brian Boucher in net.  Oh, and Antti Niemi.  And Jon Quick.  And Jimmy Howard.  And honestly, I’m not sure who Ottawa’s goalie is.  Elliot?

Having a “great” goalie has gone from being a necessity to a perk (not that guys like Jonathan Quick aren’t great, they’re just not “established” yet).  Having a Ryan Miller is a plus, not a need – in the clutch ‘n’ grab NHL days, you had to have Brodeur, Roy or Hasek to win your 1-0, 2-1 games.  I almost put Ed Belfour in that category, but couldn’t quite bring myself to do it.}

But back to Vancouver / LA.  It’s such a coin flip series, and LA brought the absolute FIRE on the penalty kill last night.  Vancouver looked like they expected LA to let them cruise in, set up and have some fun, y’know, like they’re supposed to.  They got straight up outworked.

As for the Kings powerplay/Canucks penalty-kill, I’m giving blame to the ‘Nucks over praise to the Kings.  LA, to their credit, is doing the right things.  But they’re not reinventing the wheel.  They’re doing what every coach wants: move the puck quickly, get shots through, have traffic in front, and hunt for rebounds.  Vancouver has to do a much better job staying in lanes if they want Canada’s collective mental breakdown to be postponed to at least round two.

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WASHINGTON / MONTREAL

It was only a matter of time until the team that ended the season with the most points (by a runaway) pulled a complete game together and pumped Montreal.

Classic picture

It’s just too bad it had to happen when Varlamov was in net.  Not because I don’t wish the guy success, but because now Washington is the exact same team as last year:  Good enough to beat the bottom 26 or so teams in the league just by having that much better of a team, but when they have to play one of the three that can press ‘em, uh oh, goaltending issues!

Then again, I can’t help but feel it’s only a matter of time until a somewhat-bad goalie wins a cup, and it very well could be this year. (As I’m writing this, I see Gary Greene is praising Semyon for being “absolutely brilliant”.  Herrrre we go.  Someone give Osgood the tap too!)  I just thought that when Caps fans were praising Theo’s 18-0-2 end-of-the-year finish, he must have refound his Vezina form.  Hmm.  If you can’t trust fan analysis…. who can you trust?

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For those of you you who didn’t get around to following Link Fest ’98 I hosted on Twitter yesterday, here’s the highlights.  Enjoy.  Oh, let’s kick it off with a beauty….

 Mreow.  I want my cat to do this.

Brian Burke’s press conference announcing the Phaneuf/Giguere trades:

Dany Heatley giving a tour of his home in my lovely hometown of Kelowna:

A quick Spezza interview:

You could waste your whole day checking out Ottawa Gh0st’s work on YouTube (it’s a zero, not an “o” in Ghost – thanks for that annoying twist, buddy).  It’s masterful.

Hockey Snippets

 

Bottom O’ the mornin’ to lots of ya, today!

It’s time for our regular feature, the yet un-named blogs where I mind-puke random mostly-hockey-based thoughts (thoughts on the Wisniewski hit in the comment section).  Let’s do this.

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St. Patrick Elias

You know what’s gonna be unfortunate?  The inevitable Devils fans heartbreak when they lose a best of seven series to Pittsburgh.  It all looks so pretty right now.  SIX AND OH against the defending Stanley Cup champs this year.  I know a good chunk of you fans will disagree, and you have every logical stat backing you up. 

Which is why it’s gonna hurt so, so bad.

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Is it just me, or are Simeon Varlamov and Jose Theodore basically Kyle Orton?  Spent some years on a good team, nobody thinks they’re that good, only nobody can prove they aren’t, cause all they do is win.  I remember early in the NFL season watching Orton grenade the ball around the field for some wins, and people were going “hey, maybe we are better off with Orton than Cutler.”  …until they realized they were huge liars, to themselves.  Same with Huet.  I’m sure he’s going “What more do you want me to do than win?” and Chicago’s fans are thinking “BE BETTER AT PLAYING GOAL”, because he’s not Nikolai Khabibulin (…..but at least he’s sober, zzzzzzzing!)

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The Phoenix Coyotes are five points out of FIRST IN THE WESTERN CONFERENCE.  Thank god I wasn’t the only tool to pick them to finish 31st out of 30.    Good on ‘em.

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Weee, goals are fun!

I’d be interested to hear Ponikarovsky talk about the difference in mood/daily stress going from the last place Maple Leafs to the dressing room of the defending champion Penguins.  I’ve been on teams at both ends of the standings, and it’s amazing how much your start builds momentum.  The season snowballs, good or bad.  You start winning, people are in a better mood, you’re more relaxed, you play better, and you win more. 

I can’t imagine being in a negativity vortex with Brian Burke and Ron Wilson.  They’re like the car or cow that flies out of the tornado and wrecks your house.  Shit was already gonna get damaged, but you know those two are major forces of destruction just waiting to happen, flyin’ around inside that tornado (BTW, I’m a major Burke fan with mad respect for him, but that’s a firey dude that I’d hate to explain my plus/minus to after a loss).

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Promotions that need to be stopped:  colored ice for anything.  I think Ms. Conduct mentioned playing on (or seeing) green ice the other day.  All I know is, it’s an effing nightmare to play on pink “breast cancer awareness” ice.  Maybe for a charity or exhibition game, but if I got hit with my head down in a real game, trying to fish the puck out of the hallucinogenic colors below me, I would’ve punched the first woman I saw in the breasts.  We’ve all been affected by it, it’s a great cause, but making my job frustrating and less safe kind of defeats the purpose of being charitable.

A tad gimicky, even for the ECHL

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The elusive brandless twig.

I like that announcers are trying to carry on the “boy these one-piece sticks breaking is an epidemic!” tradition that they all loved to shout when the transition from wood happened.  You couldn’t find a single player in a single NHL dressing room that would say a wood stick lasts longer (secretly, I think it’s the cost of the sticks that blows the commentators minds – they should never break at that price!). 

The rare guy still using wood (Paul Stastny) would tell you the exact same thing.  For him, it’s a feel preference, but I’m sure he still uses a stick a game, minimum.  Guys on the mic know those are 200 pound muscular men swinging them as hard as possible at the ice and a frozen puck simultaneously right?

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That’s all today guys!  Hope you enjoyed the video blog yesterday, and go check out my latest column at USA Today when you get a chance!  It’s on the Common Sense Rule for Head Shots, which means it has very little chance of being successful in professional sports.

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Random picture I like:  C’mon Cristobal, you can this!  (I actually believe that, for what it’s worth.)

Canadian Shake-ups, NHL Observations

 

Whether you love or hate Brian Burke, you have to, at the very least, admire how seriously he takes winning.  The man wants to win.  Like, right now.

There are simply too many players involved in the Toronto/Calgary deals to congratulate a winner.  But Burke knows one thing – players that are good-but-not-great are easy to come by.  You need the difference-makers to win, and Phaneuf is definitely one of those.

This pic of Wendell is G

Toronto had nothing to build around when Burke got there, and the guy seems to be aware that nobody has ever won anything “by commitee” (the current codeword for “trying to win without talent”).  The Penguins win around Crosby/Malkin, the Red Wings win around Datsyuk/Zetterberg, so Burke is building around guys like Kessel/Phaneuf/Komisarek.  Not quite on the same level, but better than the cores of a few other teams (Havlat/….Kobasew?).

At least Toronto fans will have a few A- players (okay, B+) to cheer for while finishing out the year — for them, it’s been far too many winter months of cheering for a team of C+ guys without a Mats Sundin, Doug Gilmour or Wendell Clark.  (By the way, how insufferable will Toronto fans be if Burke manages to transform them into good…. which I suspect he will.  It’ll be like mixing crappy Flames fans with obnoxious Yankee fans.  Plus, about 55,000 people already have one foot on a bandwagon that would immediately collapse under the weight all the new “diehards”.)

By the way, worth mentioning – I think Matt Stajan is a really talented guy.  The Flames did well by themselves in picking up a quality depth scorer.  In fact, I think both teams made a smart move.

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I think DiPietro looks too bad on too many plays, too often right now.  I know he’s got rust to shake off; the guy hasn’t played goal in forever, but it looks worse than that.

I’m just really nervous about that big contract.  His numbers are fine, that’s not what stresses me.  I’m saying he just isn’t technically sound these days.  He doesn’t look balanced, his angles are suspect, he isn’t getting his pads flat post-to-post in the butterfly, and just doesn’t look like the old Ricky. 

Here’s to hopin’.

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Is Matt Duchene gonna be last years Steven Stamkos?  Just kill it the second half of the year and be a legit NHL stud by next year?  I say yes.

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If you’re the GM for Washington, don’t you go Brian Burke trying get a goalie for your team?  You can’t expect your guys to put up football numbers every night in playoffs, and those stupid, weak goals are just so disheartening.

Of all the stacked teams, San Jose really has the best total package right now (even though I like Chicago and Washington’s forwards better.  San Jose might have the best line in the NHL, but aren’t the best one through 12).  Nabokov is legit.

Happy February – it’s Superbowl week!  Your reward is an insider report on how TV news reports get made.

 

Brendan and Brian Burke. And Me.

 

Let’s hit the links.

Yesterday, ESPN’s John Buccigross posted the Brendan Burke story - as was to be expected, the article has been passed around on Twitter like  it’s running a five-on-three powerplay.  As a result, I’m back in the mix (“the mix”, being the 286 comments received on my gay slurs article for USA Today).

I did an email interview on the story for Yahoo! hockey blogger “Puck Daddy” (Greg Wyshynski).  You can check that out here.

Also, I responded via email to a Buccigross question – he’ll be running that response later today, and of course, that’ll be up on here when he puts it up.

For my Canadian readers, I’ll be going on CBC’s primetime show “Connect with Mark Kelley” if one of the Burke’s are unable to make it – that’s at five o’clock today.  All I can say is, I’m cut out for radio today, not TV.  I look like I got lost in the woods, found and drank some grain alcohol, fought Manny Pacquiao, then slept in a ditch.  In reality, I just haven’t shaved in a week and couldn’t sleep because of late-night rec hockey.  …and I may have had a Stella or two.

***AMENDED*** – Apparently, it IS for TV.  Five o’clock Arizona time on the CBC.  I just scraped a razor over my dumb face, and will be heading to the studio in a bit, if the CBC can track down a willing partner in this.

And again, I received further confirmation in my inbox today that, yes, I am indeed a “flaming homo”.  So… I’ve got that going for me.

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Since I’m receiving a bit of an influx in the ‘ol number-of-hits category today, I thought I’d direct some first-time Bourne’s Bloggers to a few things I wrote that managed to not suck.

*An inordinately serious column on leaving the game of hockey, for The Hockey News

*The “How I Met Your Mother” of Bourne’s Blog.  The story written for Islanders Point Blank on how I ended up engaged to Clark Gillies daughter, Brianna.

*And the story of how I ended up being a writer, for The Hockey News – I’m having trouble getting their site to work right now, so you can find it as the bottom article on this page.

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So that’s all you get today, friends.  Looking forward to more feedback, and when the ESPN bit gets posted, you’ll be the first to know.

 

…And The Dust Settles

Well… that was quite the ride, wasn’t it?  Man.

Did you read the comments section on USA Today?  I didn’t have the slightest clue that an article titled “It’s time to end the use of gay slurs in hockey” could spur nearly 300 comments from people basically saying “no… no it’s not.” 

Who knew gay rights was such a polarizing issue?  …wait… everyone?  Ah.  ….My bad.

My apologies to those of you who took the time to write me personal, tear-inducing emails, only to have me big-dog you with no response.  I’ll try to get to more of them today, but if I’m unable to, just know it was good to hear from the side that didn’t want me jammed between mushrooms and peppers and made into some sort of hate-kabob.

I have had some contact with some people in the hockey community who are openly gay as a result of this – ESPN is picking up the major story that’s come of it, so I’ll link to that when it shows.

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So then, today’s blog is a dicey one.  I contemplated running excerpts from some of the great emails I received (one pointed me to this list of gay athletes.  Sheryl Swoopes?  …does writing about equality mean I can’t make fun of the WNBA now?  I’ll give it a few days).  Then I got worried about jtbourne.com becoming a super-serious website, so I thought about a throwback blog where I run pictures of kittens “nom”ing food, but I realized that might pour a splash or ten of fuel on the “Justin Bourne is gayer than Will and Grace” fire that was lit after my article dropped. 

Or haven't I...

Or haven't I...

I haven't had a role in years...

I haven't had a role in years...

I was a bit stunned by the response at times, thinking …Me?  Run a serious website?  Keep in mind, it was here that I once speculated that the Pope Benedict XVI was actually John Ratzenberger (Cliff from Cheers) in character.  I thought by writing the piece I did, I was just running an observation that would make the majority of people go “…well, duh”.  It seems that wasn’t the case.

In conclusion, I think I’ve said my piece.  And I meant what I said.  I’m just glad that I may have advanced the conversation a tiny little bit, and I’m proud of so many of my readers.  The neat part, if you noticed, is that the USA Today comment board was littered with hate, while mine was soaked in compassion.  It’s with good cause that I love this website.

I don’t want anyone to think I’m shying away from the subject – if you want to discuss it, I’m open to it.  But this is a sports blog, predominently hockey, so without further ado, lets talk about some goddamn hockey, please!

Oh wait – one kitten picture first.

 

Yup, iz pikture time.

Yup, iz pikture time.

Okay, got that off my chest.  some puck thoughts:

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I had a friend make the pre-season prediction of forty for Stamkos.  I wasn’t sure what to think.  Doesn’t look so bad now, does it?

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or acting?

but acting?

Missed games to injury...

Maybe Phil hasn't missed games to injury...

Is it just me, or does Phil Kessel look like the guy who plays Phoebe’s brother in “Friends”?  You know the guy right?  Anyone?   Ahhh hell, here’s a picture —–>

I wonder if “Phoebe’s brother” has ever had his thinker re-wired by Matthias Ohlund?

 

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I’d like to thank Carey Price for single-handed assasinating my fantasy hockey team.  Again Carey, thanks for that.

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I had a question posed by a reader than I’m unable to answer:  What do refs talk about between intermissions?  Are they targeting certain guys?  Justifying calls?  Discussing errors to “make up”?  Any refs out there care to handle that one?

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 And last, a joke from Tom, in Kelowna: “What do Mike Komisarek and Thunder Bay, Ontario have in common?   — They’ll both be minus 25 by Christmas”.  Awww, not funny Tom, Mike’s a great guy.  Okay, it’s a little funny.  Best of luck to him in turning it around, he’s clearly capable of it.

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As much as I can change the topic on my own blog, I’m looking forward to reading the emails I’m sure I’ll be continuing to get today – I’ll respond as best I can.  Thanks for reading!

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(UPDATED) I had a fellow blogger send me this video today – my teammate from last season with the Idaho Steelheads is having a great year in the Dallas system.  Skip to the 50 second mark and check out what Climie’s up to… (thanks bud. I’ll write a whole piece about how you deserve Turco’s spot and send it everywhere I can.  I’m sure they’ll listen)

 

(You’re all dying to make a joke about their living arrangement, but are too nervous after the past few entries, right? I sense it)

Swaggerin' Down The Highway To Hell

 

Alright, alright, I’m back in Kelowna.

Everytime I’m in New York I gain about nine pounds and take ninety minutes off my life.  Those people like the sauce.

Should we talk hockey, or me? 

Me?  If you insist.  (But then I’m gonna talk about hockey)

Major thank you to my Uncle Ken and Aunt Sue, who were a part of a weekend that went something like this:

First, the Broadway play “God of Carnage“.  James Gandolfini, Jeff Daniels, Marcia Harden (and some other great actress) tear up the set in a not so subtle hint that “marriage is the worst thing god can inflict on a person”.  Well timed. 

Meanwhile, my bride-to-be has recently started driving at ten-and-two just so she can stare at her ring while driving.  Which is nice, because I was feeling way too safe on the NY roads when she was looking at the road.

The play was followed by a fancy-pants dinner, a hotel in the city, a Yankees game in premier seats, and a 4th of July party.  I spent about six dollars.  I suspect others spent more (thanks, um, I’m a career blogger).

The only downside?

baby

Someone made me hold a baby.

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In other news, Alexi freakin’ Kovalev signed with the Senators, bumping a Heatley return into the “unlikely” file, right next to the Sens playoff hopes.

And, to make matters worse for the Sens, all the sudden the Leafs have a legitimate d-corps with the signing of Beauchemin and Komisarek.  I realize Brian Burke is human sandpaper thats as well liked as Billy Buckner in Boston, but come on… that’s a pretty nice back end he slapped together.

(Huh.  That kinda sounded gay.)

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One more thing:  You know what we all need to think about more?  Our hypothetical at-bat song.

You know, the one the guys pick to play as they walk up to the plate in baseball?  It’s like, the real-life equivalent of WWF (still can’t say ”WWE”) entry songs.  It’s my new obsession.

I’m pretty sure right now I’d be steppin’ up to “Turn My Swag On” by Soulja Boy, strictly because it’s the worst good song I’ve heard since the stuff ”Ma$e” used to put out.

But what are some of the Yankees thinking?  Teixera steps up to “I Wanna Rock”?  Really Mark?  That’s the best song in the last 20 years?

 

twisted sister

I’m convinced Hideki Matsui doesn’t know what they’re gonna play, and it’s a running gag on the team.  They all get to pick the song for one of his at-bats per week, then they vote on who embarrassed him the most.  Just a theory.

At least A-Rod has a little “Public Service Announcement” by Jay-Z.  I can dig that.

In keeping with the entry song spirit, I’ve recieved some input, and we came up with the most important tune of all.  The one I walk down the aisle to, on my way to being married.

In the lead?

Highway to Hell.

Can anyone beat that??

*PS, let the record show, Bri has a great sense of humor about the slew of past and future anti-marriage jokes.  She’s the best.

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