Category Archives: Sports

LA Daily: Miniature Golf and the Goddamn Volcano Hole

Having realized my own creative limitations, my contributions to the LA Daily will now be bi-weekly, instead of weekly. Let’s all celebrate with this week’s story, which appears to be about playing minigolf with my wife.

“Fucking Pagoda hole. That was bullshit. The volcano hole will be the great equalizer!” I declared.

She laughed as she teed up.

I looked around and tried to overlay my memory of this particular course over what I saw. My ponds were clean, my fountains were blue-tinted geysers, my little boats and seaside town didn’t have peeling paint or broken windows. The carpet on each hole was smooth and pristine, and the arcade inside the castle behind us was filled with dozens of different video games and pinball machines.

“I can’t separate how this place really looked in the ’80s from how I want to remember it,” I said. “I wonder if I’ve just idealized it, or if it really did look and feel fitter, happier, and more productive when I was a kid.”

She drew her putter back, and left herself in as good a position as any to get the inevitable six on the goddamn volcano hole. Behind us, the freeway was a wall of white noise, occasionally broken by the rumbling of a downshifting semi. The pond to our left was covered with a blanket of brown foam, broken by the nozzle of a dry fountain.

“Of course it looked better when you were a kid,” she said, “it was new then.”

“I can’t believe I never thought of that before. You’re exactly right.” I put my golf ball, yellow and worn, on the middle tee, feeling heat radiate off the heavy black rubber against the back of my hand. A gentle breeze carried children’s laughter and the unmistakable smell of that particular kind of pizza they only serve at minigolf courses past us.

I whacked my ball down the fairway. It rolled up the little volcano at the end and down one side, coming to rest in a corner next to some pine needles.

“I’m really bad at this,” I said.

“Don’t beat yourself up. I hear the volcano hole is the great equalizer.”

I gave her the stink eye as we walked down to finish the hole.

When I’m the king of the world, I’m going to buy a city block, and convert the whole thing to an 80s fun zone. It will have a classic arcade with vintage games, a single-screen movie theater, a waterslide, and a perfectly-maintained minigolf course.

my god, it’s full of unicorns

A little known fact about me: I'll do just about whatever my friend Chris tells me to do, just because I want to be popular*, so a half an hour ago, when he told Twitter to go to espn.com and type the Konami code into the search box, I stopped performing life-saving CPR on a hobo and did exactly that.

Here's what ensued:

Omg_fucking_espn_unicorns_fuck_yeah

Every time you hit a key after pressing enter, a new unicorn would pop up. It was so fucking glorious, I made sure it was the last thing the hobo saw before he died, because I knew he would have wanted it that way.

Whoever wrote that code deserves a medal. Whoever forced them to take the code out (almost as quickly as it was discovered) deserves a boot to the head**.

*not true.
** and one more for Jenny and the wimp.

HOLY CHRISTABLES, @STEPTO! KINGS WIN

The Kings and Stars played a game tonight that could best be described thusly:

INT. Hockey Arena.

TURCO

No goals for you! You come back, ONE YEAR!

QUICK

NO YOU CAN NOT HAZ GOALZ. NOT YOURS!

Seriously, the goalies were insane. So the game goes to overtime in a scoreless tie (which delights my inner goalkeeper) and ends up in a shootout.

The Kings’ leading scorer, Anze Kopitar scores a sick, sick, sick goal on Marty Turco, but Jack Johnson can’t seal the deal, and Dallas ties it. Here comes Justin Williams for the Kings, who is 0 for 7 in his career in shootouts.

I prepare myself for yet another Kings loss.

Williams takes a weak shot, but somehow Turco (who has been damn flawless and just a MONSTER the whole game) ends up sliding into his own net, taking the puck with him.

There’s a review, and the Kings win. Quick gets the shutout he deserves, and I swear to baby Jesus, the whole team better buy him all the beers he can drink after the game, because he’s the only reason they ever had a chance in this one and we all know it.

Here, now, is the whole point of this stupid post:

My friend Stephen is a Stars fan, which makes watching Kings v. Stars games infinitely more fun than they ever were before, especially since we have Twitter to do things like this, and like this:

doh.png

LA Times: through a goalie’s eyes

Ask any goalie, in any sport that has them, and they’ll tell you about The Secret Goalie Brotherhood or The Keeper’s Club or some variation of that theme. I didn’t know it existed when I started playing, but once you’re in, you’re in for life, and it’s wonderful. Whether it’s a little kid on a pond, an adult in a beer league, a Vezina trophy winning veteran, or a 22 year-old playing his rookie season, we all have this mystical sense of kinship that unites us. When I was 17 or 18, I met Kelly Hrudey at Tip-a-King, and asked him to sign my goalie glove. He took it, and said, “You’re a goalie, too? That’s great. How’s your game?”

I couldn’t believe he’d said “You’re a goalie, too,” and not “you’re a goalie?” so I just mumbled something about how it was okay, but I wasn’t as good as he was. I’m sure he forgot about me the second I walked away, but I’ll never forget it. I met other goalies who played in the NHL, and it was the same every single time.

If my post about Open Net piqued your interest in goaltending, you’ll probably enjoy this story from today’s Los Angeles Times about what it’s like to stand between the pipes in an actual NHL game:

Large, often toothless men wielding sticks routinely blaze toward you, hoping to jam a fast, hard hockey puck an inch from your groin and into the net.

Sometimes, they come alone, with speed-of-sound slap shots that bend and blur. Sometimes, they come in packs. It’s your job to stop them.

You contort your body: pretzel-like, crab-like, spider-like. You push, pull, fight, claw, slash, and take beatings. All game long, you stop shot after shot. Then a puck caroms off an opponent’s helmet. Goal. Grim.

“It’s all very black and white. . . . Maybe that’s what draws people to it,” observed Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, who is 23 and a bright spot in a season that has offered a nice surprise: Though fading fast, the Kings mathematically remain in the playoff hunt.

Quick was supposed to be in the minors. Instead, he became a midseason call-up who thrived. He’s the first to admit that he’s no Martin Brodeur, who recently notched his record 552nd win. But Quick is sharp, humble and — here’s a critical part — reflective.

“Make the big save that wins the game, you might not be the hero,” he said. “Don’t make the save. Lose the game, and if you’re feeling like it’s all your fault, yeah, it’s like you’re on an island.”

For the rest of the column, Quick and sportswriter Kurt Streeter watch the third period of a recent Kings game against the Minnesota Wild, and Quick tells him what’s going through his head at various points in the action. While I read it, my heart began to pound with the memory of third period adrenaline that I haven’t felt in over ten years.

The Kings aren’t going to make the playoffs this season, but they have the makings of a team that will go deep for years, maybe even as early as next season, and I so dearly wish I could afford season seats again. I’m not an expert, but I think having Jonathan Quick and Erik Ersberg in goal is a huge reason they can become contenders.

Resolved: I will play ice hockey again before the end of this year, and I accept that I won’t be able to tend goal the way I did when I was 18. I just miss it too much to keep not playing.

the LA daily: why i love the los angeles kings

Sunday morning, Nolan and I watched the Penguins play the Capitals in the NHL's game of the week on NBC. It was considerably more exciting than the previous week's contest between alleged rivals the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers, where someone forgot to tell the Rangers to show up and care about the game.

Watching the game together was the highlight of my weekend, and it inspired this week's LA Daily, He shoots, he scores: why I love the Los Angeles Kings:

I introduced my son Nolan to hockey during the playoffs two seasons ago, when he was 15. The Versus network had just picked up NHL games in HD, and we watched almost every game together (SECOND PRO TIP: If you're going to introduce anyone to a new sport, do it during that sport's playoffs. If it's the NHL, you get the bonus of showing them nearly all of the teams.) Last month, thanks to a post-holiday ticket sale, I took him to three games, where we watched the Kings play some of the most listless, uninspired, terrible hockey I've seen in over 20 years, but it didn't matter, because we went together. Saturday night, Nolan decided to list the various ways I've influenced his life, and one of the things at the top of the list was introducing him to hockey, which he loves. I choked back tears when he said that, because watching games together not only keeps the bond to my youth alive, but it strengthens the bond between us.

This column isn't really about hockey, but since I'm talking about it already, here's something I've been thinking about for much of this season and all of last season: The NHL has made a big deal about cutting down on fighting, and it seems like the league is working very hard to eliminate it from the game. I think this is incredibly stupid, and makes as much sense as taking the infield fly rule out of baseball; it doesn't happen that often, and casual fans may not understand what's going on, but it's a fundamental part of the game.

Whenever I suffer through yet another a Kings game where they're just getting their asses handed to them while they continue to dump and chase, over pass, and take stupid offensive zone penalties, I long for Marty McSorley, Ken Baumgartner, or Tiger Williams to come off the bench, play some old time hockey, and get the team (and fans) fired up. If the NHL wants get serious about protecting players, they should start seriously cracking down on cheap hits from behind, and stick fouls.

This was on my mind through most of Sunday's game, because the Capitals just kept taking cheap shots at Crosby, and none of this teammates or the officials did anything about it. I know Crosby has a reputation for being a whiner (though he's repeatedly compared to Gretzky, he reminds me more of Lindros) and it's pretty clear the kid doesn't have a lot of friends in the dressing room, but he's the frakking team captain, and nobody stepped up to protect him? If the NHL isn't going to call cheap shots and cross checks, and the team isn't going to send a goon out there to put on the foil, can anyone blame the Capitals for chipping away at him the whole game? I'm not taking anything away from the Caps; they played a better all around game (and Ovechkin is an unreal beast out there, who is only going to get better) but when a player like Crosby isn't allowed to shoot, it hurts his team and it rips off the fans.

Okay, so now that this has turned into a post all about hockey, a couple random thoughts about the Kings:

They've got a slim shot at the playoffs, yes, but the worst thing this team could do is make a shortsighted trade that's supposed to get them there, because we all know this team, this year, isn't going past the first round (and may even get swept.) But if the Kings' management stays patient, and they don't get fucked by free agency (the absolute scourage of sports fans everywhere) all the years of suffering are about to pay off.

I wish this team would just shoot the damn puck more, and stop it with the dump-and-chase. There are some teams who can get away with the dump-and-chase, and this team isn't one of them.

I wish they'd finish their checks in the corners, and not give up the blue line so easily.

I also wish they'd gather up all the new alternate jerseys and set them all on fire, and not just because the Kings can't seem to win while they're wearing them. Memo to sports franchises in Los Angeles: Be glad that you're not the goddamn Raiders; wear your colorful uniforms with pride.

As long as I'm complaining about uniforms: I really wish the home teams would stop wearing their away jerseys.

As long as I'm complaining about things changing: I really wish they'd change the conference and division names back.

Did I mention how much I hate the dump-and-chase?

Also: get off my lawn.

Finally: Go Kings!

LA Daily: this is the way I remember it…

This week’s LA Daily appears to be about playing T-ball when I was six, but it’s actually about a whole lot more than that.

Not that it matters, but most of this is true.

When I was six years old, I set foot onto on a T-ball diamond for the first time.

I was skinny, awkward and unsure of myself – basically a smaller version of the teenager I’d eventually become – and I didn’t have very good coordination, but my dad loved baseball, and I knew that if my dad loved it, I loved it too, because that’s the way things work when you’re six.

It was the spring of 1978, when smog alerts were as common as reality shows are today, and hazy, reddish gold sunlight shone down on the field at Sunland Park. The sounds of other kids playing on the swings and in the giant rocket ship at the playground mingled with the smell of barbecue smoke as I stepped up to the plate to take my first practice swings.

My first swing connected with the middle of the tee. The baseball – in those days of gas lines and national malaise, we didn’t have the soft RIF balls my kids got to play with – fell off and landed in the batter’s box on the other side of the plate. The other kids giggled while the coach clapped his hands and shouted encouraging words to me as I picked the ball up and put it back on the tee.

I looked up and saw my father’s expectant face through the chainlink fence near the dugout. I slowly and deliberately lifted my bat, held it out at arm’s length, and aimed at the top of the tee with one eye closed. I stuck out my tongue and furrowed my brow. I tasted sweat on the corners of my mouth, and felt my heart beat in my ears.

The bat touched the ball, and it fell off again. The kids giggled again. The coach clapped again. I replaced the ball on the tee again.

“Come on, Willow,” my dad said. “You can do it!”

I took a deep breath, held the bat as tightly as I could, and swung for the fences.

It’s a busy, busy day for me. I got up early to write this morning, did some voice over work early this afternoon, and now I’m racing to beat a pretty important deadline, so I can announce something awesome tomorrow.

the great wheaton hockey scandal of 1991

My friends at CliqueClack did an interview with Dean Devlin, creator of the sensational new series Leverage. Dean and I played hockey on the same team (with, I’ve just now remembered, Adam Baldwin, also) from around 1989-1991. He was a forward and I was a goalie. One night in Burbank, our team gave up a breakaway near the redline. I saw it happening when the puck was still in the offensive zone, so I was ready.

When the other guy crossed our blue line, I was already way out of the net, near the bottom of the faceoff circle on my left side. I skated backward with him to force him to shoot on my terms. I guess I was near the crease when I saw him pull his stick back way over his head. “Oh good,” I thought, “he’s just going to try to blast it past me. Those shots almost always go wide, or right into my glove.”

The next thing I knew, there was an explosion in the rink, and a bright flash of light before everything went dark. When the lights came back on, I was on my knees, surrounded by a semicircle of skates. I pulled my helmet off, and watched a whole bunch of blood pour down onto the ice.

“Oh, the way it beads up is really neat,” I thought. Then, “Wait. That’s my blood.”

I’d done my job and forced him to take a low-percentage shot that went wide, just like I was supposed to. Unfortunately, it went right over the net and into my skull. My helmet was crushed, and I got to take a trip to the emergency room for something like 36 stitches in my head. I also got whiplash, which was not awesome.

Anyway, in Dean’s interview with CC, this game came up. He said:

“Wil was a dynamite goalie. When he was still shooting Star Trek, we were playing in a game and a puck actually cracked his helmet open and he needed stitches and the producers of Star Trek basically wanted to murder me. ‘You’re letting Wil stand there in front of a net while we’re shooting the series?’” Oh, the scandal.

I miss playing hockey so much. If I could justify the expense, I’d totally buy some new gear (I’ve outgrown my skates and pants, and I’d need a new helmet for obvious reasons) and find one of those leagues for guys who are in their thirties.

It may seem silly, but seventeen years after we played together, hearing that Dean thought I was a dynamite goalie means the world to me. I worked really hard to be a good keeper back in those days, and I was really proud of our team. I had a lot of free time, so I worked out at the rink almost every day, and played pick up games a couple of times a week. That season, I had a great record and a great save percentage. I even got to travel and play in an exhibition game against some members of the 1980 gold medal team in front of a sold out Boston Garden – where I was scored-on and pulled after one shot, which still makes me sad to this day. In my defense, it was Mike Eruzione who made the shot, and it was a two-on-none break. But still, I wish I’d stayed in the game.

Until I read this today, I had no idea the producers bitched Dean out, and it’s amusing to me that they did because I wasn’t even a regular on the series when this happened. In fact, shortly after the injury, I got a call from the Star Trek production office. I was surprised to hear from them, and assumed someone had heard about the accident and wanted to bitch me out about it.

They were actually calling me to tell me that Gene Roddenberry had died.

It’s weird how memories are all woven together, isn’t it?

various awesome things

My story The Art of War in the latest Star Trek manga got a really nice mention at Trek Movie dot Com:

Fans of Wil Wheaton’s blog or books know him to be an adroit writer of nonfiction, an almost Mark Twain for the geek crowd if you don’t mind such a comparison. Yet his “Art of War” story shows he is talented with fictional narratives, too. The story involves Kirk and a Klingon named Kring both trapped together in a collapsed mine on the planet Angrena. The “enemies forced to cooperate” situation isn’t unique to science fiction or to Star Trek, be it the film Enemy Mine or “The Enemy” and “Darmok” episodes of TNG. These kinds of narratives succeed if there is something different about how they are told and if they provide the reader with something to think about with the characters or a social lesson. Wheaton does all of these things with his comic.

They gave me 10 out of 10! Dude!

My friend and editor, Luis Reyes, is also getting rave reviews for his story, The Humanitarian, which I still haven’t seen because my damn contributor’s copy hasn’t shown up, yet. Luis is a great guy who took one in the chest when TokyoPop . . . uh . . . popped . . . a few months ago. I remember talking with him about his story while he was working on it, and he was really hopeful that people would like it. Sounds like they did: “Once in a while, a Star Trek story is so incredibly good that it stays with you forever.”

Cheyenne Wright did a pretty awesome drawing of a guy who looks like me, but cooler.

scaled.wil_color.jpg

How much do you want a shirt that says “GE [lightning bolt] EK” right now? I guarantee it’s not as much as I do.

Depeche Mode: The Singles 1986-1998 is available from Amazon MP3 for 3.99 today only. I am not ashamed to admit that I loved Depeche Mode when I was a teenager. Any DM fans out there notice how, depending on your age, your seminal DM album is either Music for the Masses or Violator? Mine is the former, though I still love the latter.

xkcd and Diesel Sweeties made me giggle so hard it hurt my chest. Thanks for nothing, guys.

This isn’t awesome, but it’s important that I share: there’s a current crop of e-mails going around that appear to be from CNN or MSNBC. They’re not. They go to very well-designed pages that can fool people into installing malware. I don’t ask this often, but please share this bit of news with your friends who are . . . vulnerable . . . to this sort of attack.

There’s some really cool new stuff at Propeller 2.0 that I’m excited about, including the growing awesomeness of the Geek group.

Great Showdowns of the 8-bit Era is beautiful. (via reddit)

That reminds me: If I collected some of my favorite Games of Our Lives into a book, would you be interested in buying it? (Note that it was all WFH and as such the AV Club owns all the material; I’d have to convince them to give me permission, but before I bother trying to do that, I wanted to gauge interest here.)

I hate that NBC is delaying their “live” prime time Olympics for West Coast viewers, but their online coverage is incredible. If you’re only watching the Olympics in prime time, you’re really missing out on some great events, like Table Tennis, Archery, Rowing, Soccer, and Handball. I mean, gymnastics and swimming are neat and all, but there’s a lot more to the games than just those events. Durr.

Jefbot hates me, but it’s all in good fun. The next strip in the series is gold, Jerry. GOLD!

Top Shelf is rapidly becoming one of my favorite publishers. Like Vertigo or Blue Note, I can pick up anything from them and know I’m going to love it. I want to do a proper review at some point, but the book Super Spy by Matt Kindt is absolutely magnificent, and proves that graphic storytelling exists as literature. You can see one of the stories in the book here.

Finally:

Me: Ah! I hate this song! Change it! Change it!

Ryan: Hey, when we played the endless setlist, you said -

Me: We were playing for five hours! I don’t think anyone should be held accountable for anything they said, did, or turned off during the endless setlist. Now let’s never speak of this again.

Ryan: But -

Me: NEVER. AGAIN.

Ryan went back to school this morning. My ribs hurt so much, I couldn’t hug him as much as I needed to, making an already-difficult goodbye extra painful. He’s grown up and matured so much in the last six months, I just love having him around. He’s really grown into a fine young man, and is someone I’d like to hang around with even if he wasn’t my son. I’m going to miss him a lot.