You may not like to admit it, but being a Penguins fan is an embarrassingly easy and deliriously enjoyable experience. At least 99 percent of the time. After all, how many couch pillows have you torn asunder in frustration this season? Sure, the Penguins’ power play is hapless, but this season has been one breezy picnic on the ‘Mon. Even Pascal Dupuis’ normally feeble hands have been possessed by the carefree spirit of Jan “Funky Cold” Hrdina. When Dooper is on pace to score 20 goals in a season, your team is living the high life.
If the Pens’ brief losing streak has you feeling blue, just think of the alternative: You could have been born in New Jersey instead. The misery of Garden Staters isn’t limited to the stigma of being associated with those daffy paisans from MTV’s Jersey Shore. They also have to watch the New Jersey Devils meander around the rink every other night. You, noble Pittsburgher, get to enjoy firewagon hockey. You get to live in a city that doesn’t collectively smell like grandma’s house. Both socially and morally: Pittsburgh > New Jersey.
Alas, six times a season, New Jersey gets to have a cheap laugh at our expense by torturing Pittsburgh hockey fans with THE TRAP®. The Trap is an ultra-conservative philosophy of playing defense. Instead of chasing after the puck and having fun, the Devils players sit back and let the puck come to them. The whole team agrees to do this. In fact, if they get the lead in a game, all five skaters just glide around on their side of the ice, flailing their sticks wildly like bubble hockey figurines. It’s derivative, slow and boring – just like all of Bruce Springsteen’s albums after 1987. It’s the game of hockey as if re-imagined by lawyers and Frenchmen.
Still, it works, especially against the Penguins, whose weaknesses only appear when other teams deliberately slow down the pace of the game. Tonight, when the Penguins play the Devils in New Jersey, don’t be shocked if you see four or five Devils players forming a Secret Service wall in front of goalie Martin Brodeur’s crease. The Devils play goalie by committee. Head coach Jacques Lemaire would duct tape his players to the posts if it were legal.
Just brace yourself for 60 minutes of unmitigated frustration, Pittsburgh.
The Devils may beat up the Penguins in short spurts in the regular season, but come playoff time, they don’t have the horses to compete over a seven game series. As good as star left winger Zach Parise is (look out for #9 tonight), you cannot take down the Penguins in May if your team’s second best goal scorer is 36-year-old Brian “Who?” Rolston.
Then again, Rolston did win a Cup with the Devils during the Clinton administration, so look out.
The New Jersey Devils are really just a metaphor for life itself. We’re spoiled rotten by the magic of Crosby and Malkin. No matter what happened at work or what grade you got on your math test at school that day – come 7:00 on a Hockey Night in Pittsburgh, all is right in the world. All is forgotten as soon as Matt Cooke’s bullying antics make a grown man throw a temper tantrum, or as soon as Brooks Orpik shoves his mitts into an opponent’s yapping mouth during a tussle. Watching the Penguins is delightful.
But it’s all a fantasy world. Come the next morning, life is back to running The Trap® on us again. Life isn’t bad, it’s just frustrating. Here are just a few examples of Life-as-the-New-Jersey-Devils:
Life Frustration # 1 – The Prevalence of Study Abroad Programs
My girlfriend is Spanish. For the most part, this is pretty cool. It’s like having a forged handicap sticker on your car. It just makes things easier. When we go to Taco Bell, she explains what all the foreign burrito verbiage means. When she asks me to do anything I don’t want to do, I just pretend like she has forgotten the correct English word for it.
“Help you fold laundry, you say? What’s laun-dry? I don’t understand. I cannot comprehend. I think you better grab the Spanish-to-English dictionary. Oops, gotta’ run!”
There’s only one time having a Spanish girlfriend is a problem: when you run into Joey Abroad. These days, every underage college kid “studies abroad” in Europe for a semester to escape America’s anachronistic drinking laws, and to spend their parents’ money with the least amount of transparency possible. Think Goldman Sacks is corrupt? Joey Abroad spends his parents’ bailout money with even less honor.
For instance, Joey Abroad will send an e-mail home saying that he’s stuck on a volunteer Red Cross mission in the Balkan foothills and needs emergency funds to buy school books for a small migrant child. In reality, he’s in Madrid just padding his tequila slush fund.
Because of the sluggish economy, many recent college graduates are turning to the service industry. I can’t take my girlfriend out to dinner these days without running into a barista or waiter who detects her accent and starts blathering away in broken Spanish about his five-month glorified spring break trip to Barcelona.
What’s worse, I have to sit there in silence as the whole charade unfolds, unable to communicate my urgent need for an order of onion rings in one of the romance languages. Man, study abroad programs are frustrating. But not as frustrating as a trip to a corporate restroom.
Life Frustration # 2 – The Social Behavior in Corporate Bathrooms
During the day, I work in Corporate America in a big building. Each floor of the building has only one male bathroom, which is routinely packed. There’s nary a lonely moment in the lavatory. To make matters worse, the architects of the bathroom decided that it would be a good idea to put a four inch gap between the stall doors and the divider. Someone can literally toss a tennis ball through the gap while you have the door closed.
It gets worse. In a feat of unbridled architectural stupidity, the sinks are located directly in front of the stalls, with a giant, freshly Windex-ed mirror giving participants an unhindered, panoramic view into the hearts and minds of the unfortunate souls sitting on the John.
The stall design makes for some interesting situations. Often, some marketing manager or accountant will start combing their hair in the mirror, then actually recognize an acquaintance through the crack and start up an eye-to-eye conversation while the acquaintance is taking care of their other business.
This is not an exaggeration. Corporate bathrooms are a reminder of how emotionally taxing life can be. But just remember, my friends: the frustrations of life, much like the New Jersey Devils’ trap, can be beaten with patience. So don’t grumble tonight, Pens fans. Give a whistle.