Tag Archives: questionable decisions

A Home Hockey Weekend Away

The best bar in the world.

The best bar in the world.

At one week before the tournament, the schedule comes out and shit starts to get real. Everyone on the team has her own job, her own life, stretching from north Tampa down to Port Charlotte. But now the shift to hockey lives ramps up on social media. Lefty, a sister-like friend and old-school Canadian defenseman, posts a “Timehop” status from five years ago: “Reading Hannah’s blog, it dawns on me I made it through an entire tournament without a single penalty!!! WTF is happening to me?”

I respond, “Hoping to do an account this time through; see if you can change the narrative a bit, hmm?”
The Friday game always garners the most adrenaline—a week’s worth of daydreaming of crisp passes and hard shots—but even more so this time, as I’ve got a big group of coworkers, friends even and accompanying strangers here to watch. It’s an honor, and heartwarming, up until the point I realize that we’re going to get dominated by the other team, and my contributions will be a single line-rush to the offensive zone and a pretty blatant trip that I somehow still didn’t get called for. “We” (my teammates) muster a couple of goals on a paltry number of shots, and lose 4-2. The awesome people cheer anyway.

Everyone is amped to blow off some steam, especially considering we don’t play again until Saturday afternoon. But anchoring my mood is a 7 a.m. “agreement” (I didn’t realize it would be so early) to help Mrs. Harrible man the check-in table. Still, there’s a crowd out, and people need beer. We all down a couple Bud Lights while standing in crowds around the lobby, exchanging numbers, trying to sort out plans. A few of us, along with the remaining fans, head to Applebee’s for a bit. Around 12:30 I meet up with another group downtown. It’s loud and smokey and I’m relatively subdued—a whiskey here, a beer there—and make my escape around 2. Teammates J.D. and Kamikaski show no signs of slowing down.

The 7 a.m. arrival was never going to happen. At 2:30 a.m. I make it official with a text to Mrs. Harrible: “Sorry, dude. Everybody came out tonight instead of tomorrow. Aiming for 8:30.” It’s kind of a shitty thing to do.

Up at 7:30 and make it to the rink by 8:30. I’m surprised my back isn’t worse, but the lack of sleep is already worrisome. I question the wisdom of my McMuffin breakfast (and the caffeine content of McDonald’s coffee). I sell a few raffle tickets and try to avoid nodding off. At 11, as other teammates have arrived, I beg off—45 minutes to drive home, 45-minute nap, then 45 minutes back to the rink by 1:15 for our 2 p.m. game. I regret nothing about these decisions.

Kamikaski, apparently, regrets the shots that happened before, during and after my time at the bar. She’s only moderately late to the locker room, but misses the first shift or two due to an unscheduled appointment between her head and the toilet.

It’s the same team again, and while our shot total goes up, we struggle finding the back of the net. Frustration mounts. The other team is both physical and winning, and the refs miss a couple of opportunities to intercede early—illegal checks and behind-the-play high sticks, coming and going from both teams. Kamikaski lowers her football shoulder pads into the other team’s star, who responds with a two-hander to the helmet and a squealy rebuke to our bench. Quick Little K gets crunched off the puck in the corner. Furious warnings from our bench, “You better call something or this is about to get really bad!”

During a scrum in front of our net, an opposing player goes flying. Coasting toward the penalty box, Lefty stops for a moment in the doorway, seeing me on the bench: “Your wish is my command,” she grins.

Final score: 4-0. Blessedly, we get to keep the same locker room, which will stay a sea of stank, wet gear for the three hours until time next to suit up again.

Between games, Captain Beerslinger heads out to get more beer, but in the meantime, we need beer, so we snag a couple of pitchers from the snack bar and plop around in front of college basketball, bullshitting about whatever and rehashing old stories for new teammates.

Our goalie ambles over balancing plates stacked with soft pretzels and neon-orange nacho cheese, turns her back to deflect the ribbing: “Don’t worry about what’s going on over here.”

Keight, a newer addition but one of the stronger and more experienced skaters on the team, shows up with a Subway sandwich and a 12-pack of…”Azulitas?” I ask.

“…what?”

“Haha, dude, those are 8-ouncers.” There’s an ongoing discussion of the merits of smaller serving sizes even when the same total amount of beer will be consumed. More contributions come. Within an hour, despite our best efforts to keep up with supply, the cooler is overflowing.

harrible

Mr. Harrible and an Azulita.

The 6 p.m. game takes effort, but at least it’s a different team this time—a selection of players from Alabama and Georgia. We go the entire second period without a shot on net, but it’s more competitive than it sounds. My best play—a steal at the blue-line and potential breakaway—was negated by a prolonged stumble of wobbledy ankles and eventual fall. I keep my cool about it until a linemate mentions how close it was to an awesome play. “FUCK!” I respond.

Later, Little J, who’s been our lone fan for the day, commends my ability to shield the puck even as I fall down. Good man.

An opposing player “goes batshit crazy,” to Kamikaski’s estimation, and attacks J.D. after the goalie covered the puck. Somehow both players get penalties. Kamikaski and her football pads are ready to nail someone, but order prevails.

Shut out in another loss.

Postgame pizza party to watch even more hockey at the Harribles’ house. The young ‘uns—Little K and Hands—show up with, I shit you not, juice boxes and fruit-by-the-foot. Lefty and I put cheese puffs on our pizza. Inspired by my negated breakaway, Hands shows me—and then everyone else—a video of a runway model wobbling and falling in too-high heels. Guffaws. “I hate you all.”

Sunday locker room conversations are both celebratory and somber—work and real life loom, and talk turns to impending deadlines and asshole fourth-graders. Male hockey players are predominantly blue collar—landscapers, plumbers, welders, firemen. Percentage-wise, female hockey players are overwhelmingly teachers. I could run down a few theories for why this is, but maybe it’s better you ponder it on your own.

The game is our best yet—a 2-2 tie against the out-of-staters, despite the fact that J.D. had her own batshit moment and got tossed for mouthing off at the ref. But I’m subdued by exhaustion, frustration and an inability to get my juju going. I try not to let my cloud affect the team’s celebration, and it eventually clears. Yet more post-game locker room hangout time–feet on bags, beers in hand–stretches indefinitely into the afternoon.

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How I Make the Team Win

When people ask me if I’m superstitious, I answer assuredly, “Nope!”

I played NCAA Division I soccer, and a lot of competitive soccer to get there. (And no, I’m not going to get tired of bringing that up.) Throughout my career, if I didn’t have the right shirt, the right bra, stepped on the sideline or not, whatever, I was ok; I never thought about what order I put my gear on, which shoes I tied first.

And yet, as a fan? I get so idiotic following my temporary, impulsive, newly imagined superstitions. They’re not even legit, consistent game-to-game superstitions; they’re just what occurs to me during the course of a single game. I compulsively follow whatever idea suddenly pops into my had as good luck—and those impulses must be having an effect, otherwise I would’ve learned from logic and stopped trying right?

I think I’m going to call it Helpless Fan Syndrome: You can’t be on the field, so you invent ways to be proactive.

Is anyone else so…Mormon with their superstitions? Just top-of-the-head, “It came to mind, therefore it must be God’s law”? I make fun of it, and then my brain goes all, “For the Bolts to win, you have to wear the same underwear that you wore while eating that really great sandwich you had last Wednesday, and take out your left earring, ’cause it’s an away game,” and I’m like, “OH, SHIT, DUH.” […* dutifully changes underwear, removes earring.]

While it’s obvious that my techniques are still being developed (as of the Bolts/Rays results in the last 24 hours, and the Bucs…well, pretty much all the time), here are some things I did right to cause the Rays to win Wednesday: (And it’s not at all a coincidence, then, that I did none of these things today–hence the blowout.)

  1. Drank out of the same glass I used during Monday’s win. (Unwashed. Duh.)
  2. Refused to let that glass go empty.
  3. Did not wear any of my Rays gear. (One of my longer-standing superstitions deems that wearing team gear—or even using team-branded items like cozies and whatnot—is bad luck.)
  4. Nor did I wear anything blue or yellow or green.
  5. Answered only “yes yes” and “woo” to any IMs I got in support of the Rays during the final two innings.
  6. Kept my phone plugged in throughout the ninth inning, even though it was fully charged midway through.
  7. Knocked twice on my head, wooden TV tray and wooden coffee table (in a random order) with my right hand, then on my head and coffee table (random order) with my left hand every time an announcer said something jinxy.
  8. Made this list eight items long, ‘cause eight is a good number.

When in doubt and your team is down, you can always go to the time-tested and proven “rally shot.” In the best circumstances, this involves the cheapest tequila available at the bar (see: El Toro, Pepe Lopez)*. Among many success stories, this shot’s greatest achievement? The USWNT comeback win over Brazil, during which CCB, the Deelios and I, in an unparalleled moment of patriotism, took one (apiece) for the team. And then this happened:

 

 

In a pinch, you can use whatever somehow detestable shot you have on-hand that you can suffer through without ruining your experience for the rest of the game.

But lastly, a few words of warning for wielding the power of the rally shot:

  1. Never take a rally shot when your team is up or tied. (That means it’s rallying for the other team.)
  2. Be very, very careful taking a second rally shot—you never know if the first one is still working, and you may counteract it and/or die.
  3. And speaking of: Never take a rally shot after midnight. I dunno if it’s bad luck, but I’m pretty sure it’s just straight-up a bad idea.

 

*Holy god with those websites. Now I see where they get their power…

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Makes Me Want a Hot Dog REAL BAD

Apparently today is National Hot Dog Day. I’ve got my Nathan’s in the fridge, although the Salty Dog is right on my way home, so there’s a decent chance I’ll be swayed by a batter-dipped, deep-fried, quarter-pound wiener of awesomeness.

 

 
And then there’s this:

 

 

 

Awesome. This is my 101st BananaHammer post. Yay hot dogs.

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The Calm Within the Storm

storm

At the beach the other night, I watched with glee as the sun set on the western horizon while a massive thunderstorm crept in from the southeast. I thought I was leaving at the perfect time: Just before the storm’s leading edge arrived, I turned back for one last look at the clear orange sunset—and it was on that side of me that a massive lightning bolt struck the point a few hundred yards away, leaving just enough time for me to announce “Fuck?!” to the other handful of beachgoers before the earsplitting crack-BOOM of thunder.

And though I upped my pace a bit carrying a metal beach chair the quarter-mile home, I couldn’t stop smiling with every new boom (that, among other things, conveniently assured me I had not yet been struck dead). And when I got there, the darkness having arrived faster than it might normally, I didn’t even turn on the lights—just opened all the blinds and sat (in the AC, ’cause it was hot as a motherfucker) blissfully surrounded by the thunder, lightning, wind and rain.

From what I can gather, lots of people like thunderstorms.

For me, they’re a simultaneous soothing and stimulant—maybe like when smokers say a cigarette calms them down. (Or when I say alcohol energizes me.) But this week, since welcoming summer thunderstorm season with open arms, I haven’t quite been able to describe the nature of a good storm’s effect on me.

It might be that a thunderstorm generates a sort of survival instinct that draws you out of yourself, diminishing all other stressors with pure, instinctual focus. But then there’d be terror, too, right? I dunno. I’m sure that’s what it does for the cat, anyway.

Or maybe, along those lines, it’s an adventure—something like how I think of sports. A distraction. A game that’s temporarily thrust upon you, and you get to navigate these strange circumstances for as long as it lasts.

Maybe it’s sort of the opposite: That as a child, a serious thunderstorm ensured the cancellation of a soccer game—the erasure of all immediate obligations and impending conflict.

Some people have ventured that it’s the violence and chaos of a thunderstorm that suits me. I’m not sure about that—although I love the reputation. As though they imagine me still and grinning while I savor the thrashing trees and lightning and stinging rain.

But I don’t think “I love chaos” is an accurate bumper sticker for the jittery, paranoid neuroses that generally drive me.

Similarly, I think, maybe I like to sympathize with a storm, because it gets to generate a noise and destructiveness that I can rarely achieve. And even more rarely get away with. Oh, do I like to scream and throw things and hit people—but then there’s all that paperwork and apologizing to be done. But an unthinking, uncontrollable, all-encompassing, kick-over-the-trash-can, chuck-a-bough, blow-up-a-breaker, rattle-the-windows, guilt-free tantrum? Sounds lovely.

Still and all, I’m so profoundly soothed by storms that the violence seems beside the point. The sheer physical relaxation I feel is like…it’s sort of like when you get your hair shampooed at the salon (or barber, or whatever)? You’ve got your neck in the curved sink thing, eyes closed, and there’s warm water flowing over your scalp—and then, then they have to get to the back of your head so they lift your whole head up and so fully support its weight that your neck is suddenly free from all duties and achieves an almost spiritual relaxation. That kind of calming.

The best description might be rather meta, in that thunderstorms are my Thundershirt.

All that being said, you just know what’s gonna happen, right? Within the next 72 hours, there’s sure to be a massive storm that scares the absolute bejeezus out of me, ensuring I’ll never again curse a sunny day.

But until that happens…

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Disaster Preparedness Wake-up Call

An adventure in stream-of-semi-consciousness.

4 a.m., and it’s the absence of noise that wakes me up. Power’s out. Must’ve just happened, ‘cause the blades on the ceiling fan are still coming to a halt. Also: I’m still breathing. Little-known fact: Without electricity, a CPAP machine is nothing more than a snorkel with a box on the end of it.

So: I awoke in silence, a deathbox snorkel strapped to my face.

Now, I tend to look forward to rough storms. Not that I want people to suffer property damage or anything else; I just like good, aggressive weather. Tropical Storm Mosh Pit. I try not to be too cavalier about it, but my first reaction to a storm warning is not fear but excitement. Oh yes, I am Hurricane Hubris. Obviously I need a reminder now and then that storm porn is going to be a lot less fun if I’m not prepared.

This night, it wasn’t even raining out. Consider it a dry run.

OK, maybe it’s because the breaker box is on the outside of the house (but mostly it’s because I am quite paranoid—and more so in the middle of the night), but the first thing I think to do, upon waking up and realizing the power’s out, is protect myself from possible invasion. I mean, duh. I stumble through the house to make sure both doors are locked, enduring an aborted appendectomy attempt by the bicycle handlebars en route. Then I wonder at my invisible enemies’ potential battle plans, peering through the blinds in search of what seemed like the flicker of a flashlight beam in the yard.

(Yeah, it was lightning.)

If they have flashlights, I think to myself, then I’m really glad I have pants on.

 

And yeah, I dunno why someone would have to cut the power to break into my 600-square-foot apartment in the middle of the night—never mind why they would want to break into my 600-square-foot apartment in the first place—but brain’s gonna go where brain’s gonna go. And, ever-helpful, my brain seeks refuge in the calming mental sanctuary of an 80s slasher movie.

So, if someone’s coming after me, I’m probably going to need a flashlight. Where is the flashlight? No idea. Good thing my phone’s all bright…aaaaand about to die. Oh well, I’ll just have to plug it in.

Oh. Wait.

This is bothersome to my bothered brain, because if someone does try to break in, I’m going to need a phone with power in it to call 911. But a flashlight is also important, so I can size up my attacker and/or scout possible escape routes. Natch.

From what I can tell, after 10 minutes of shining my apps into all the corners of my apartment at 4 a.m., I…don’t actually own a flashlight. Good to know. I do, however, have six matches and a vanilla-scented votive in a wee little flower pot. So I spend a few more minutes poking around with my illuminated flower pot, then finally decide that if I’m going to look like an idiot, I might as well be in the dark.

…but just in case, I grab six extra votives as I had back to bed.

And I wait.

Dude, island is dark. I think of the benefits of letting my eyes adjust to the darkness, but there’s not even enough ambient light to adjust to—nothing but the setting moon.

And it’s quiet. So quiet.

Well, intermittently.

Oh, hey, y’know what doesn’t stop when the power’s out? Peacocks.

Also: CJ, ever the watchkitty, who lies in the ready position at my side, ears cocked forward and tail thwacking my ribs, as though monitoring the movements of something lingering just outside the door…

ARGH. Not helpful, cat.

Eventually, I drift off, dreaming of all the fun I’m going to have amassing a disaster preparedness kit—oh, the things that I’ll buy! Such a wonderful shopping adventure I’ll have, and I’ll never have to worry about the power going out again.

The fan starts whirring again around 6.

Sure enough, I’ve been unable to relocate my disaster preparedness enthusiasm in the daylight hours. What do I even need to buy? Canned goods? Pfft. And do I really not have a flashlight? I’m sure it’s around somewhere…

Powerlessness never seems like such a big deal, until you find yourself in the dark, counting matches and clutching a slowly dying flower pot.

Edited 6/20 to add:

The beginnings of my preparedness kit. In case of emergency, just look for the drunk chick suffering from sodium shock.

The beginnings of my preparedness kit. In case of emergency, just look for the drunk chick suffering from sodium shock.

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Food Fail

Today's trashcan tells the tale. And it's a sad tale, too. Especially for the rejected apple.

Today’s trashcan tells the tale. And it’s a sad tale, too. Especially for the rejected apple.

When my intestines started barking around 11 this morning, there were a few possible culprits.

Most signs would point to the pepperoni-and-cheddar sandwich I had for breakfast. (On whole wheat! Healthy!) (…with mayo.) However, the grumbly tummy also could’ve been tied to the triple-grande mocha that had so jolted my system I actually found myself wondering if the grumpy little barista had laced it with cocaine. I don’t know why a grumpy little barista would exercise her anger by being so generous with her cocaine stash, but logic is not the strong suit of the hyper-caffeinated Banana.

Come to think of it, that pepperoni had probably expired, too.

Things seemed to have settled down after a trip to the gym, but I wasn’t gonna let my digestive system off the hook that easily. For lunch, I got a Tropical Smoothie, which I’m pretty sure is just semi-frozen, fruit-flavored chemicals with soy protein. It led me to conclude that if shit’s gonna taste like Robitussin, it ought to at least get you drunk.

What makes all this worse is that I usually take a good bit of pride in my culinary sophistication. I can appreciate a well-cooked fillet or a fresh, simple marinara sauce; I exist in a constant state of craving for foie gras and proper Hollandaise.

And then I think, “Ooh, questionable cured meat and orange dairy! What a way to start the day!” and proceed to dose myself with stimulants and hospital-flavored milkshake. It’s not so much bad eating habits as laziness combined with a lapse in dietary prudence: Thinking up a good meal was just too much effort, never mind actually executing one.

Well, at least I took my vitamin.

Aaaaaaand now I’m eating croutons right out of the bag. Dammit. Who put these here?!

I mean, it’s acceptable—trendy, even—to appreciate good food and still crave the occasional McNugget. Anthony Bourdain openly admits his love for KFC mac ‘n cheese. But I’ve yet to eat anything today that even qualifies as food. It’s hard to picture Mario Batali chowing down on some potpourri and Play-Doh and then licking the carpet.

Wait, actually, that’s pretty easy to picture. Bad example. (Also, whoa: Things Mario Batali and my cat have in common.)

Anyway, parents to the rescue. Though Ma and Pa are the ones who introduced me to 50s-tastic fare like fried Spam sandwiches and mayo-topped canned pear salad, they also laid the groundwork for my appreciation of real, home-cooked food, made with fresh ingredients and love, seasoned with salt and expletives. For tonight’s dinner, they’re serving smoked Boston butt, fresh-cut coleslaw and homemade, baked mac ‘n cheese. Not only would my grandmother have recognized these things as food; she’d have shown you how to cook ‘em.

After dinner, I’m thinking I should probably head to the grocery store. I’ve got nothing but tonic water and pickle relish in my fridge, and that makes me scared for tomorrow.

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Concussed

“How’s your head. Did you go to the docter?” An inquiry tonight from Krazy Kevin. Of course. As colorful on IM as he is in real life. (Obviously I like clean grammar, but I also like writing that captures energy and individual personality, and in this sense, Kevin is an exceptional writer.)

“Nah, if anything is shaky tomorrow, I’ll go, but I think it’s getting better.”

“When you came of the ice you gave me that look! I saw you on your ass but I didnt c what happened!”

“Haha what look? Fucking tall guy cut into the slot as I was crashing to get his rebound. Tried to avoid him but he turned the same way I did. Landed on my shoulder blades and hit my head on the ice.”

“That look like I just got shmucked and your not gonna say anything or that shouldve been a penalty! Ya that look! Whiplash!!”

“Hah, part of it was also that I got shmucked by my own teammate. I must have been looking at you to commiserate.”

Yeah, what with all the sports and my own brand of awkward agility, I’ve hit my head plenty in my life, and had my bell rung enough, I’m sure, to rattle the already unsteady foundation of my cognitive abilities. But this was a good ‘un.

Falling backwards on the ice usually means something’s amiss. Either someone hit you but good or slew-footed you or slipped you a mickey. (Hi, 1920s, so nice of you to make an appearance in my vocabulary.) That, or you’re still Bambi-ing around on your skates, and fortunately, I at least grew out of that a while back. Every once in a while you’ll catch an edge transitioning backwards—and you will undoubtedly be 20 feet from any other skater, probably during warm-ups—and you’ll find yourself with what seems like five or 10 seconds to contemplate how you wound up horizontal with neither foot available to catch your fall. And then you will land squarely on a single ass cheek.

So, as you’ve gathered, mine was Friendly Fire—a teammate zigging as I zagged in a perfect mirror image, and boom: The Violent Dance of the D League. And even if they’ve got 80 pounds on you, sometimes guys are shaky enough on their skates that they’ll get the worst of it. But this guy was tall enough that instead of hitting him up high, which is a great balance-fucker on shaky skates, I landed square in his center of gravity.

It must’ve been a good one, too, ‘cause the ref (among the most competent ones available) blew the whistle—basically a “hey, some fool’s incapacitated” stoppage of play.

Of course, I didn’t know that this had happened until I got to my feet, trying to give a reassuring fist bump to the poor guy who seemed to be repeating, “I’m so sorry—I didn’t see you. I’m so sorry.” I just knew my head had snapped back and hit the ice—not unfamiliar in my hockey career, and one of those things that I usually think looks worse than it is. The helmet means it doesn’t hurt; the weight of it just means you’ll have whiplash later. As I was shaking out cobwebs, the ref’s voice came into focus: “You gotta go to the bench for a sec, ‘cause I stopped it.”

At which point, apparently, I glared at Kevin.

I started figuring it was worse as the day wore on: The back of my head actually did hurt a little—the phantom feeling of a bump. And my shoulder blades hurt; I must not have landed on my ass at all. Landing on your ass hurts like hell, but not landing on it suggests a pretty good collision, and an especially bad landing for the head and neck. Worst of all, my teeth hurt. Well, they hurt like my head hurt—not hurt, but I was more aware of them than I should have been.

It took me a long time to realize that, aside from sports like boxing and pro hockey (where the teeth really are at serious risk), mouthpieces are solely for preventing concussions. And to be fair, it probably took me so long to realize that because I used to remove my mandatory high school soccer mouthpiece and stick it in my sock.

But it wasn’t until Monday night, more than 24 hours after the fall, when I got a stabbing pain behind my left eyebrow that made my left eye weep like a faucet, that I really considered the seriousness of concussions in general, and this one in particular.

I do think concussion-related degenerative brain disorders, of pro athletes especially, are a real and scary issue. Although part of the reason I know they’re an issue is that I know what it’s like, at least a little. Injuries in sports are to be triumphed over, and concussions are almost always not about pain in the present moment. They don’t feel serious firsthand—either at the time or cumulatively. I didn’t even miss a shift on Sunday. (And, see, I really am bragging about that.) I don’t want to stop playing, and I’m not even getting paid for it.

So this is why it’s good to have a lot of well-meaning people around you, hounding you to go to the doctor. I’m feeling better now, but I know a nasty bump to the noggin  and three straight days of headaches are good reasons to see a medical professional. But I think I’m-a be OK.

I will say I’m considering wearing a mouthpiece now. But I will also say that I probably won’t, at least not right away. Brain damage, indeed.

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