Sunday Roundup: #Selma50, Red Wings, and Social Justice Warriors

It’s Sunday and it is time to catch up on the best the internet had to offer during the past week. If you have any article suggestions for the Sunday Roundup send me a tweet @tbone1225.

Glendening hamstrings Red Wings top line

Tom Mitsos disputes Mike Babcock’s decision to put Luke Glendening on the top line with Pavel Datsyuk and Tomas Tatar in his article “Red Wings: Why is Luke Glendening Getting Top-Line Minutes?” for The Hockey Writers.

Red Wings goalies: Mrazek elite, Gustavsson obsolete

“Gustavsson’s time in Detroit was great, but it’s time to end the experiment and look toward the future.” While Tom Mitsos is thankful for the service of goalie Jonas Gustavsson, he makes the case for the Detroit Red Wings investing in Petr Mrazek instead in his article “Time For the Jonas Gustavsson Experiment to End” for The Hockey Writers.

A #Selma50 tour of the Freedom Movement in Mississippi

Richard Thomas details how the freedom movement in Mississippi required different strategies than anywhere else in his article “Lessons from #Selma50: #1 Medgar Evers and organization #TCUCRBT” for The Resist Daily.

Next stop, Alabama: #Selma50 tour continues

In his article “Lessons from #Selma50: #2 Bloody Sunday,” Richard Thomas of The Resist Daily describes the systemic inequalities many residents of Selma, Alabama have faced and continue to face today.

Red Wings potential first round playoff matchups

Tom Mitsos of The Hockey Writers forecasts a few of the more likely first round matchups in his article “Red Wings’ Possible Playoff Matchups.”

Social Justice Warriors and the wake they leave

“Organizing, advocacy, agitating, etc. is not about social or moral purity. Calling out injustice is not about bullying individuals but about naming a visible problem.” Gabe Pfefer discusses privileged apathetic approaches to social justice that ultimately create more problems in his post “For the Last Time, Social Justice Activism is not about Ideological Purity” on Ephphathoughts.

Holy anger in the face of injustice

Gabe Pfefer discusses how anger can be valued negatively or positively depending on its context, expression, object, and purpose in his post “Anger What Is It Good For? Quite A Lot Actually.” on Ephphathoughts.

Sunday Roundup: Red Wings prospects, Northern Racism, and Lentsploitation

It’s Sunday and it is time to catch up on the best the internet had to offer during the past week. If you have any article suggestions for the Sunday Roundup send me a tweet @tbone1225.

Things you’ve always wanted to know about the Red Wings

Tom Mitsos answers questions about the Red Wings in his mail bag post for The Hockey Writers. As an added compare/contrast bonus, Ansar Khan answers the same questions at MLive.

Racism is alive and well in northern states

“The perfect storm of Northern amnesia and largely white rural-sides weave a story that claims that Northern racial tensions (if they exist at all) only seem to occur in large cities where blacks are concentrated; thereby subtly implying that the issue is the very presence of said communities.” Guest writer Nathan Lewis Lawrence writes about manifestations of white supremacy in northern states in general and Ohio specifically in his post “Four Things You Didn’t Know About Northern Racism” for The Resist Daily. Check out his other writings at his blog Taming Cynicism.

Petr Mrazek won’t be stuck in the AHL for long

“[Mrazek is] the future goalie for the Red Wings, but he’ll need some time to adjust to the NHL.” Tom Mitsos talks about the short- and long-term possibilities for goalie Petr Mrazek in his article “Red Wings Prospect Petr Mrazek Motivated to Improve” for The Hockey Writers.

Is Marchenko a good defensive fit for the Wings?

Tom Mitsos discusses the need for right-handed defenseman Alexey Marchenko on the Red Wings in his article “Do the Red Wings Need to Trade With Alexey Marchenko?” for The Hockey Writers.

Exploited foreign workers and the spiritual season of Lent

“I think it is appropriate here to illustrate the exploitative nature of outsourcing through the context of the current season of Lent.” With the religious observance of Lent in mind, Richard Thomas discusses concepts of freedom in the face of oppressive economic institutions in his article “Our Bondage And Our Freedom: on Lent and neoliberalism” for The Resist Daily.

Sunday Roundup: Party Philosophy, Petr Mrazek’s Fate, and Selma

It’s Sunday and it is time to catch up on the best the internet had to offer during the past week. If you have any article suggestions for the Sunday Roundup send me a tweet @tbone1225.

Andrew WK tweet of the week

Straight up zen!

You can never have too many goalies

“I’ve said in the past that Mrazek has done all that he can in the AHL. He has more than 50 wins and backstopped his team to a Calder Cup during the 2012-13 season. He has nothing left to prove at that level.” Tom Mitsos discusses goalie Petr Mrazek’s likely fate after head goalie Jimmy Howard returns in his article “Has Petr Mrazek Played His Way Onto Red Wings” at The Hockey Writers.

It’s a good time for social justice cinema

“It’s no laughing matter to see enslaved Black persons being beaten on the big screen. These social justice films are enjoyable, but I would not say that they are entirely pleasant experiences. We’re not talking about rom-coms here.” Rod Thomas of The Resist Daily shares his critical observations about the Ava Duvernay film Selma in an article titled “5 Takeaways from #Selma @SelmaMovie.”

Miracle: the Russian perspective

“[I]t was Tarasov’s love of the game and big-hearted nature that helped the Soviet Union players fall in love with the sport.” Tom Mitsos reviews ESPN’s new 30 for 30 hockey-umentary “Of Miracles and Men” for The Hockey Writers.

From Becky to Bechdel

Comedy gold.

Defense fails Mrazek in Red Wings loss to Penguins

“Mrazek most likely played his last game in Detroit for a while, now that both Howard and Jonas Gustavsson are healthy.” After a difficult loss to the Penguins, Tom Mitsos laments Petr Mrazek’s relatively short season as goaltender for the Red Wings in his article “3 Observations from Red Wings’ Loss to Pittsburgh” on The Hockey Writers.

The hypothetical cost of Kessel

“It’s a very solid lineup for sure. Kessel on the top line with Pavel Datsyuk and Justin Abdelkader is a dream lineup, and the possibility of Henrik Zetterberg taking Abdelkader’s spot on the wing only makes the line that more dangerous.” Tom Mitsos weighs the pros and cons of the Red Wings trading a big chunk of their roster for Toronto’s Phil Kessel in his article “Red Wings Hypothetical Trade: How Much for Kessel?” for The Hockey Writers. Special thanks to hockey analytics researcher David Malinowski for the prompt.

Goalie Tom McCollum on his time with the Red Wings

Tom Mitsos and The Hockey Writers interview Red Wings goalie prospect Tom McCollum about his short stint in Detroit, his continued presence with the Grand Rapids Griffins, and how he got into hockey in the first place.

Sunday Roundup: Croatia’s Jubilee, Hockey’s Biggest Coaching Foible, and To Kill a Mockingbird Sequel

It’s Sunday and it is time to catch up on the best the internet had to offer during the past week. If you have any article suggestions for the Sunday Roundup send me a tweet @tbone1225.

Red Wings need to work on their penalty kill

“When you already are down a man, chasing the puck is the worst sin you can commit on the penalty kill, especially if you are facing a team that is good at cycling the puck.” Despite a winning record, the Red Wings have had some serious problems shoring up their penalty kill. Tom Mitsos discusses ways the team can overcome this issue in his article “How to Fix the Red Wings’ Penalty Kill” for The Hockey Writers.

Croatia is just the latest in a long line of debt cancellation programs

“Whatever happens in this latest game of brinkmanship between creditors and debtors, history shows that mass debt write-offs are neither as rare nor as taboo as we might think.” From the early Jewish concept of the “Year of Jubilee” and the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi to post-war debt forgiveness plans in France, Greece, Italy and Germany, Telegraph writer Mehreen Khan explains how debt cancellation has been a central tenet of many of history’s greatest economic success stories. Check out Mehreen’s article “The biggest debt write-offs in the history of the world” and the book that inspired it titled This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly by Carmen M. Reinhart and Kenneth S. Rogoff.

Seahawks decision to pass at the 1-yard line is NOT the biggest coaching foible of all time

After the Super Bowl, football fans were quick to label Pete Carroll’s fateful decision to pass instead of run the ball as the worst coaching mistake of all time, but to Tom Mitsos of The Hockey Writers that award goes to Soviet Union ice hockey coach Viktor Tikhonov who pulled goalie Vladislav Tretiak, who was touted as the best goalie in the world, resulting in a loss to the United States in the 1980 Olympics. “Tikhonov even admitted pulling Tretiak was the worst mistake he ever made, and no one knew Tretiak as an athlete better than Tikhonov.” For more, read Tom’s article “Bigger Coaching Gaff: Viktor Tikhonov or Pete Carroll?”

Harper Lee’s sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird

The internet was set ablaze following the discovery of a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird written by Harper Lee. Comic writer Paul Cornell and Twitter wisdom curator Jon Winokur were among the many who took this to heart in their daily Tweets.

A great season for Darren Helm, Luke Glendening, Justin Abdelkader, and Kyle Quincey

While many Red Wings fans will attribute the team’s recent bout of success to Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Tatar, and Nyquist, their assault on the top spot in the Atlantic Division wouldn’t be possible without Michigan natives Luke Glendening, Justin Abdelkader, formerly injury-prone center Darren Helm, and Kyle Quincey, the defensemen that many fans last year would have been happy to get rid of. “When general manager Ken Holland re-signed Kyle Quincey to a two-year deal alst summer, it reeked of a panic move after he struck out on all of the free agent defensemen he was pursuing. However, Quincey has been one of the more consistent defensemen for the Red Wings this season.” Tom Mitsos breaks down the reasons to celebrate these four players in his article “4 Red Wings Having Surprisingly Good Seasons” at The Hockey Writers.

For the right price the Red Wings might welcome Toronto’s Cody Franson to Detroit

“In the end, the price has to be right for Franson, whether the Red Wings can get that price will decide whether they should pull the trigger or stand pat.” Tom Mitsos responds to trade deadline speculation that right-handed defenseman Cody Franson might be coming to Motown. While it is clear that Franson would be a great fit in Detroit, many fans are uncomfortable with the potential cost. Read Tom’s article “Red Wings Trade Talk: Is Cody Franson the Missing Piece?” featuring the expert testimony of The Hockey Writers Maple Leafs contributor James Tanner.

Expect a better second half of the season from Red Wings prospect Anthony Mantha

“[N]ow that [Mantha] has 35 games under his belt, he’s no doubt got a good grasp of what will and will not work at the AHL level.” Though 20-year-old junior league star Anthony Mantha has not been measuring up to the high expectations set for him this season, writer Tom Mitsos remains optimistic about his future as the 2014-15 season marches toward its conclusion. Check out his article “Anthony Mantha Determined to Have Better Second Half” at The Hockey Writers.

How cosplay is the great equalizer

Comic book writer Dan Slott decided to post an uplifting tweet on Saturday:

Dan Slott currently writes Amazing Spider-man and Silver Surfer for Marvel Comics.

Would You Go All the Way for the USA?

As if the epic gravity of the fact that you were at the most highly attended hockey game of all time or the fact that you have probably never paid this much money for tickets to a sporting event weren’t enough, Winter Classic coordinators decided to deliver an added bonus for those brave enough to stay until the very end of the January 1st showdown between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs. (If you guessed that Nick Fury inducts Pavel Datsyuk into the Avengers after the credits, you are incorrect. Romanoff never trusted the guy.)If you hadn’t already been carted away in an ambulance after suffering symptoms of severe hypothermia, you had the option to experience the supreme treat of hearing the exclusive live announcement of the 2014 US Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Team.

I went to the Winter Classic with my buddy Tom Mitsos, a die-hard Detroit and Team USA fan, and had he been able to feel his toes he would have made me stay through to the end of the announcement. As it was, he’d forgotten what toes were like, what they were used for, and how it might feel to wiggle them. While sitting in Ann Arbor traffic for a matter of hours, I found the time to look up the Men’s Hockey Team using my phone’s browser. Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard was joined by Maple Leafs forwards Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk and a long list of current American hockey royalty. There was no shortage of talent on this team, but there was an unsurprising lack of my guys.

In order to unpack this phrase, “my guys,” we’ll have to flash back a few years to when I waited out the toughest three years of the recession living in North Texas – Denton and Fort Worth, to be specific – and in the process became a lifelong fan of local NHL team the Dallas Stars. While in Denton, my brother Micah and I would walk down Fry Street, which at the time was considered the best bar scene in the area, over even Dallas’s Deep Ellum area, and over to Riprocks (or “Rips,” as Micah called it) to watch the Stars battle their foe-of-the-week on a TV tuned to Fox Sports Southwest. My brother’s love of the team was intoxicating, and fairly virulent, but there was something about this team that was bigger than just sharing a deep love with my brother. I’d watch hockey games while nursing a Ziegenbock and chowing down on a burger and when I looked up at the screen it was as if the Stars were the only team broadcast in color. Even the Detroit Red Wings, the beloved team of my youth and of my home town, only played in grey-scale. The other teams were Kansas and the Stars were Oz. I’d only had that feeling two other sports teams in my life, and both for only a year: the first was with the Dallas Cowboys during Terrell Owens’ last year with the team, and the second was the year the Detroit Lions looked like they might go undefeated, before most of the team had been arrested for drug crimes or otherwise. As of the 2013-14 hockey season, if my calculations are correct, I’ve been a Dallas Stars fan for a full seven years.

After looking over a Team USA roster devoid of Dallas Stars, I started to peruse the line-ups for some of the other contenders for Gold in the Olympics Men’s Hockey tourney. Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen had joined Boston’s Tuukka Rask and San Jose’s Antti Niemi as goalies for Team Finland, up-and-comer Valeri Nichushkin was playing for Team Russia, and captain Jamie Benn joined head coach Lindy Ruff on the roster of a star-heavy Canadian Olympic Team. Just prior to the Olympic break, I remember staying home sick from work, the only thing keeping me both warm and comfortable enough to sleep through my illness being the outdated Brenden Morrow Stars jersey Amy had bought me along with Valentine’s Day tickets to a Detroit-Dallas game at the Joe Louis as Christmas presents a previous year, and posting a selfie on Facebook just prior to a Stars game reading, “Go Stars! Go Canada! Go Finland! Go Russia!”

Exhibit A. Full, original Facebook caption: "Home, sick, but staying warm Micah-style. Go Stars! Go Canada! Go Finland! Go Russia!"

Exhibit A. Full, original Facebook caption: “Home, sick, but staying warm Micah-style. Go Stars! Go Canada! Go Finland! Go Russia!”

I hadn’t followed Olympic hockey in previous years – it was always over before I realized it had even started – but I had always assumed, in the current world climate, that the way I’d chosen which Olympic hockey teams I would support was the same way everyone chose which team they’d root for. For example, fans of Henrik Zetterberg would be fans of Team Sweden and fans of Pavel Datsyuk would cheer for Team Russia. This was not the case. In the days to come, I was bombarded by people horribly offended by my Facebook status simply because I was not rooting for Team USA to win the gold medal for ice hockey at the 2014 Olympics.

Don’t get me wrong. Some of these people had good arguments. There were those who said that I am merely a “contrarian,” choosing opposing teams simply to act as a devil’s advocate, and to some extent they are right. I have a lot of trouble joining in the actions of a mob, and one of my greatest fears is the tyranny of the majority. I was also called a “troller,” which is equally accurate. I do like to put things out there so we’re not silent about possible sources of oppression. I even have a friend who is known to refer to me as an “iconoclast,” but in a post-Nixon world of pedophile priests and human rights sacrificed for the sake of fleeting public security, what remains unspoiled to be placed atop a pedestal? The annoying part of the dialogue that followed my post was not being called these names that I clearly have little problem with being called. The annoying part was when people would act like there was a moral imperative to root for Team USA, like my choice to support any other team was simultaneously killing Tinkerbell along with all of America’s deployed armed forces and the American public as a whole. When George W. Bush was deposed of, I thought I’d see an end to McCarthyist accusations wherein ones opponent is labeled a terrorist, but that thought went up in smoke when I ended up on the wrong side of sports.

And this is the point where my good friend and fellow Winter Classic attendant Tom comes into the conversation, at exactly the wrong time. As one might expect, things got explosive. Before you all start lecturing me on the value of tact, I want to let you know that tact is overvalued in our society. It is not tact, exactly, that is the problem, but the thing that people parade around as tact. People prefer to be dishonest, to avoid conflict, and to be generally spineless, a series of vices that they define as a virtue, and as a result we see rumor-mongering and passive aggressive cold wars popping up left and right. Tact is downright useless in today’s moral climate. What it ought to be replaced with is understanding that effective communication requires a particular type of argument coupled with a particular type of delivery, both of which vary according to the circumstance. What follows is a good argument that I managed to attach to a terrible delivery, and the explosive consequences that I mentioned earlier.


While these are not the words that I exchanged with the my various angry interlocutors, they are the foundations of my perspective on the subject. If you’re looking for my response to my good buddy Tom, you can feel free to skip this section and jump ahead to “The Delivery.”

One of the current trends, alongside gluten free and non-GMO, is the buy local movement, but there was once a world where you had little choice but to buy locally. If you couldn’t grow or make a product at your own homestead or with the help of your kith and kin, you would bring your excesses to market and trade them to other people. This myth is both true and false. For many people, all of life took place within a thirty mile radius from birth to death, and yet even some of the earliest civilizations – the pre-Greek Minoans and Myceneans – were known for vast shipping networks, with suggestions of boat routes from Ancient Greece and Turkey all the way to Great Britain. For most, if not all, of recorded history, humankind has been cosmopolitan by nature.

We are more cosmopolitan now than at any other time. While for most people cosmopolitan means a drink or a magazine, it generally means that you are at ease in one country as much as in any other country. It derives from the Greek “cosmos,” or world, and “polis,” or citizen, suggesting that a cosmopolitan is a citizen not of any particular sovereignty, but of the world. There are some who are going to argue, “I am not cosmopolitan. I’ve only ever lived in America. I’ve never even traveled overseas. I did go to Tijuana on Spring Break once, but that doesn’t count.” I challenge these people to look at the nationality of the people who read their blogs, of those who post your favorite YouTube videos, or to simply check the tags on their clothing for their country of origin.

Some might argue that the Olympics was created not to fan the fire of petty local vices and feuds with ones neighbor, but in order to create a greater citizenship, a kindred spirit with people of different regions that might prevent future warring and trade disputes. Whether or not that is the case, I have a lot of difficulty finding any sporting event where you will find something purely American going up against something purely Chinese or purely Latvian. The main threats in the Olympics Hockey tournament were, as always, USA, Canada, Russia, Sweden, and Finland, and we have expected this to be so for some time simply due to the fact that these teams are loaded with highly skilled NHL players while many of the other teams are not. Now, players for these teams don’t simply stick to their home country and wait for the Olympics to come back again. These NHL players spend nearly all of their time practicing, playing, and making money for teams that are located only in North America, US teams like Philadelphia and Washington as well as Canadian teams like Montreal and Toronto. The majority of the players for the Dallas Stars may be Canadian by birth, but they are paid by an American team and in turn make money for the same American team, have houses or apartments in America, buy food and drinks from American drinkers, and bring their cars to American auto repair businesses when they break down.

The time when the purely American team or individual could be found has long been over, and that is assuming it ever existed in the first place. The original European settlers had nothing in common, no unifying language or national origin, and the American identity was defined in the negative, as not-British, not-French, not-Dutch, and they had even less in common with America’s original human settlers, the so-called Natives who traveled across land bridges from Eurasia long before any settlers accidentally stumbled upon the continent. Everyone is tainted, by this country or that country, through coaching, sponsorship, family, friends, financial support, media support, merchandising, or ancestry, and this is exactly as it should be. As a result, our thinking about who we want to support in any sport is rich and complex, allowing us to express our freedom to choose not only through popular vote for US public office but also by rooting for another nation’s Olympic team for reasons as simple as liking their story.

This is the argument that my beliefs on the topic stemmed from…


…and this is how I delivered those beliefs.

When Tom came at me with a “home team trumps everybody else” [Tom, a text] argument, I hit him back with three incredibly long texts explaining a series of questions that complicates the idea of “home team,” asking whether a goal by Tomas Tatar (Detroit Red Wings) or a win for Team USA is better for Michigan, and suggesting that the American revolution was fought so people wouldn’t have to be “guilted into liking the most popular [team]” [me, a text].

Shortly thereafter, I started a guerilla attack on Tom via Twitter. Tom wrote an innocuous statement that perfectly fit his post as a sports writer and Detroit Red Wings blogger / podcaster, a Valentine’s Day tweet reading, “Today is the worst, not because it’s Valentine’s Day, but because Zetterberg pulled out of the Olympics” [Tom, Twitter]. I implied that because of Tom’s position regarding Team USA, he must want Zetterberg to die because his efforts are not for the glory of Team USA and also that Ryan Kesler, Phil Kessel, Max Pacioretty, James van Riemsdyk, and Blake Wheeler should “be hung for traitors” [me, Twitter] because they play for un-American teams in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Winnipeg during the regular season.

One week later, when Team Canada won the gold medal qualifying game with Dallas Star Jamie Benn scoring the game-winning-goal, the entire thing came to a head. We exchanged angry texts for the entirety of the morning, and it only stopped because my fiancee said that I was being a dick and should apologize to Tom. What happened next was unexpected, and did a lot to change my perspective about petty arguments. We’ll get into that soon, but first a flashback.

Several years ago, I was living in New York City. I spent a lot of my free time on AIM – little did I know, but it would be my last year using the program – listening to my brother talk about this great hockey team called the Dallas Stars and explaining their virtues and victories, and yet this was before I was even a Stars fan myself. I was in a band called Get Stop Ticket with my three friends Becky, Elliot, and Fiona, who had also relocated from Grand Rapids to NYC. We never played any gigs, but we certainly made the rounds of the Brooklyn and Manhattan (and sometimes even Queens) night life. One weekend, another Michigan compatriot and fellow musician, a DJ named Jon came to visit us. We attended a concert at Studio B – I think it may have been the electronic band Modeselektor, and if that is the case then my brother was there in attendance as well for this story – and I remember Jon checking in every couple moments to tell me something about the music or to crack some joke. I remember feeling really annoyed that the experience was peppered with this side-commentary and creating this unfair perspective of Jon as a pest that evening. Later, however, we went to a bar, and Jon started to unload some things about his past that I didn’t really know. We had gone to the same high school and I’d always seen Jon as much more popular than me and having a wealthier family, but I had never bothered to wonder what was going on in his life. That evening at the bar I began to feel for Jon more than ever before and to this date I believe that we are kindred spirits in ways few others are. I respect Jon and value him as a human being and a friend. The lesson I learned that night was like that of the classic parables of ancient history.

It was a lesson that I hadn’t learned well enough to treat Tom with the dignity that he deserved during our Olympic-sized battle. As soon as I backed down from the offensive, Tom felt safe enough to admit that his father had been in the hospital and he was terrified that things might go poorly for him. It’s not my place to tell Tom’s story for him, but it is my place to point out that this was an instance of the same lesson. I spent so much time attempting to meet the teams and players involved in Olympic Men’s Hockey where they are, loving them despite national affiliation, that I had forgotten to meet Tom where he was. Tom was in a scary place and he needed a friend, and what I brought to the table was yet another enemy.

Eventually Tom and I got on the same page, and I think we’ve put this dispute in the past. We’re both firm in our beliefs and I think we respect one another. To Tom’s credit, he was quick to share the blame for the series of events that had us at one another’s throat. In the end, we were two people who held different opinions, both with completely understandable and positive reasons for holding those different opinions (The Argument), and yet we clashed like Titans because of how we decided to let those opinions play out in public discourse (The Delivery).

Children are concerned with fairness, but only insofar as they gain from it. As a child I believed it unfair that my brother got presents on my birthday (Christmas) but that I didn’t get presents on his, so my parents would get me a present on February 4th. People on Facebook speak up for justice, but only insofar as their own cause is served. Tom and I, along with all of the others embroiled in the Olympic controversy I’ve written about, valued the concept of respect, but not in its fullness. We wanted people to respect our own opinions, either before or at the expense of offering the same respect to their opinions. Respect was at best a compromise and at worse a battle won or lost. If I had been able to see past the delivery and even past the argument and noticed the human being behind it all, a lesson I had claimed to learn after the incident with Jon, I would have seen another person who suffers through the difficulties of life just as I do. I would love that person for exactly the right reasons and I would have nothing but respect.

I’ve learned this lesson before, but I haven’t figured out how to live this lesson. Some would say this is the ultimate message that the people of the book (Jews, Christians, and Muslims) profess in unison, the same set of words uttered in different tongues by Confucius and to some extent – to lay individuals – by Lao Tzu and Buddha. As for me, I know that I am often presented a chance to prove that I have become the embodiment of this concept of respect, and that I can think of two times when I have failed. My fear is that I won’t get that many more chances.

(Oh, and by the way, Tom’s dad made it through that difficult time, and we were all pretty darn happy about it. We love you, Mr. Mitsos!)

The Longest Windiest Winter (Classic)

Of the thirty-one years I’ve spent on this Earth, I believe this year has been the longest, coldest, snowiest, stormiest winter I’ve experienced. In many regards, this is not just a subjective hunch of mine, but an objective, measurable fact. The winter of 2013-14 was quite a bear to make my way through, and even more so because I walked to work every single morning through the frigid, frosty winter wonderland of Lowell. Because of a streak of bad luck with a pair of Ford Tauruses (Tauri? Taura? Taurs?), both of which ending up totaled after all of the repairs added up, Amy and I found that we were once again a one car family. She had been working in Kentwood, which is much too hefty of a walk, so I ended up putting more miles on my feet than any other season I can remember.

There is a widely spread myth that languages in the Eskimo-Aleut (Eskaleut) family have hundreds of words that they use to describe snow. Even if this is not the case, I could understand why it would be so. Every morning I walked to work – and the amount of snowy days I walked to work had to be nearly 100 – was a different situation. I remember embankments of snow pushed together by plows. (I like big buttes and I cannot lie…) I remember when the Huntington Bank near my apartment turned its overflow parking lot into a 30 foot high snow dump simply because there was nowhere else to put the snow from the main lot. Children would play atop the piles with the same vim and vigor they exhibited when they played on the toxic sandbag sand disposed by the city in a grassy green field down the road from my apartment after the flood of 2013. I remember shoveled sidewalks protected by a four-foot wall of snow on either side. I remember even more sidewalks that weren’t shoveled. At one point there was word that Governor Snyder was warning people not to even go outside to shovel your sidewalk because of how dangerous the cold had been, but there were still those who got up and scraped out a path for me every morning by 6:15 AM. There were times when I had hiked in knee-deep snow for so long that when I got to a patch of shoveled sidewalk I nearly cried, vowing to someday buy a gift basket for those who put in the effort to make my commute easier.

Making my way through the heavy snow made my legs stronger, and I finally felt like I might be able to keep up with my fiancee Amy the next time she decided she wanted to take a summer hike to through Fallasburg Park. It was the ice that was the real menace. What you don’t realize when you drive to work in the winter is that the roads are always, with no exception, in better condition than the sidewalks, and it makes sense because the nation depends on the transportation of goods and automobile slip-and-falls can be much more deadly than pedestrian slip-and-falls. I remember one day when everything was covered in ice. I had traversed carefully across the ice for about a mile before this indescribable terror set in – I had spend so much energy keeping my balance, but that energy was running out. At one point, I stepped on someone’s driveway and, like Gumbi on some invisible skateboard, just kept slipping until I was across it. I didn’t fall that day, but I can remember two times when I did. The first time I exercised every precaution, planned every step, and still managed to fall flat on my back my first step off of my porch. The second time was when, like Moses, I glimpsed my final destination – Litehouse, the promised land of my morning walk – only to plummet to the ground the first moment my foot touched the parking lot, backpack and all. There was ice like a glaze or candy coating on the snow, ice with water underneath it that bubble-danced about as you stepped on it like coy in a pond, and sometimes I even became part of the ice. I could always tell when the temperature was circling around ten below freezing, because my eyelashes would begin to freeze together.

In the break room coworkers would say that they saw me in the flurries and morning winter storms as they drove in to work. Soon they began to pity me, offering me rides, and eventually I put my pride aside and let an electrician named Eric drive me home. But when those same people talked about how terrible it must be to have to make that walk every morning, I must have seemed like such a stereotypical “manly man.” I’d say something like, “Nah. That walk was nothing. You should have been at the Winter Classic.”

Photo Jan 01, 11 12 20 AM

The Big House as viewed from our seats before the Winter Classic.

The NHL Winter Classic is a tradition established in 2008 where two professional hockey teams, usually teams from the North and usually on or around New Years Day, match up in order to play an old time outdoors hockey game. This year I spent the first day of the year with my good friend Tom watching the Detroit Red Wings take on the Toronto Maple Leafs, two teams with a decent potential to underachieve their way out of a playoff spot, at the Big House in Ann Arbor. A friend at work would later express how awesome it must have been to see Detroit greats like Gordie Howe and Steve Yzerman, but we didn’t end up seeing them. The alumni game, which usually precedes the Winter Classic, was held on the previous day in Detroit, making it much harder to attend both events.

While I was born and raised in Michigan, people who know me might have wondered why I even went to the 2014 Winter Classic. As a Dallas Stars fan, I really didn’t have a dog in the race, and while I love hockey it is the other Tiemeyer brother that people usually associate with the sport. My buddy Tom was a Wings fan, so his attendance made sense. Amy had been a Leafs fan ever since she first saw players like Tyler Bozak and Jonas Gustavsson while watching a Stars/Maple Leafs game on NHL GameCenter, but she had decided to step back and give me some bro time with Tom. I was excited to be a part of such a big hockey event. I had once attended a Red Wings/Stars game in which Detroit broke the record for most consecutive wins on home ice in a season, but this Winter Classic was expected to break an even bigger record. According to ticket sales, it was boasted that this would be the most highly attended hockey game in the history of the NHL.

One of the cuter pre-departure photos I took. That's Tom on the left and me on the right.

One of the cuter pre-departure photos we took. That’s Tom on the left and me on the right.

While January 1 was the day I would be part of hockey history, it was also my first day of documenting as much of 2014 with my camera as humanly possible. I am looking forward to getting married to Amy in September and I want my family – Amy and all of our little potential kids – to have access to the events that preceded our marital fusion. To this end I took photos of pre-departure, pictures on the road, pictures of everything I could. As we were walking up to the stadium, surrounded by a sea of red (Wings) and blue (Leafs), it became more and more painful to take off my gloves and capture the moment with my camera phone. This was the first sign of the trouble to come.

The Ascent, or, In Which We Realized it was Too Cold to Take Pictures Anymore

The Ascent, or, In Which We Realized it was Too Cold to Take Pictures Anymore

In our excitement, we arrived in Ann Arbor over two hours early for the game, which gave us the time to walk around the Big House more times than we would have liked. The first lap was to check out what was going on in and around the stadium. Every subsequent lap was an attempt to keep our bodies from freezing in place, never to be thawed again. We encountered some interesting things on our adventure in the cold. There was a film crew from CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company) that had gathered a crowd of Wings and Leafs in a semi-circle to shoot an adversarial promo for the event, there was a giant Bridgestone Winter Classic billboard that we took the time to pose in front of, and best of all, a generic hot dog that ended up being my favorite dog ever simply because it injected a little bit of heat back into my body. First, my extremities had gone numbed, and then the wave of cold had encroached upon my core, so that little bit of stolen heat was like manna from heaven.

Tom of the Franzen Jersey and the heaven-sent hot dog

Tom of the Franzen Jersey and the heaven-sent hot dog

The snow had started falling as soon as we entered the stadium, so when we returned to our seats after the walk our collectible seat cushions were covered with powder. The game hadn’t even started and I colder than I had ever been, colder than the time I slipped down a snowy hill into an icy river in the back of an elementary school friend’s house, colder than at any Polar Bear camp out I had attended in the Boy Scouts, colder than I could imagine cold to be. This was a really big game for Tom and we had paid a lot of money for the tickets, but if Tom had asked my honest opinion at that very moment I would have told him that I wanted to go home before the players even hit the ice.

I didn’t ask Tom to take me home, and we still survived the experience. As more people started filing into their seats I started getting hopeful that they might share their warmth, but the heat didn’t seem to be able to survive the minute gap between one person and the next. My scarf kept slipping from my face, revealing my bare skin to the elements. At one point, I took a big risk, unraveled my scarf, and re-applied it tightly over my neck and face, but it had turned around in the process making my neck wet and cold from the ice that had formed on the fabric. My thoughts drifted to the emergency medical stations established throughout the stadium and how warm they must be inside. If I could just walk over to one, perhaps things would be better. But I couldn’t leave Tom on such a big day. I just couldn’t. To this day, I wonder how many people ended up needing medical attention at the most attended game in hockey history. I would gird myself against the elements and tell myself that I could make it, but then I would see someone wipe snow off of a seat cushion with their bare fingers and something deep inside me would scream – THIS IS DEATH!

The Wings and the Leafs were pretty balanced that day on the ice. Neither team ever got more than one point ahead of the other. Though I estimated more Leafs fans in the bleachers, the audience of the game was fairly balanced as well. Many of the Wings fans were acting like frat boys and being really inhospitable to their rivals from across the lake, but after a while that feeling of Canadian friendliness began to take over. One of the most powerful moments I can remember was when the chants of opposing fans began to weave together like verse and chorus of the same song: “Let’s go, Red Wings. Go Leafs, Go. Let’s go, Red Wings. Go, Leafs, Go.

But that was merely an interlude in the burning coldness that lead to complete numbness. At one point I remember feeling like a huge block of ice had formed within my boot. I’d try to move my toes and push it away from my flesh, but it wouldn’t budge. Later, when we got to the heat of Tom’s car I would come to understand that the block of ice was the outer layers of my own foot as perceived by the portions that still had some feeling left in them. During both the first and second intermission, we escaped to the refreshments stand in order to pick up expensive hot chocolates. Tom cradled his in his hand for a long time, sipping and enjoying the feeling of the hot cup on his cold fingers while I gulped down my drink, hoping that the spark on the inside of me would re-ignite the fire in the rest of my body.

When we returned to our seats and I felt just as cold as I had before the hot chocolate, I started having a guilty thought. I knew I was supposed to be rooting for the Red Wings – after all, that was Tom’s favorite team, and the guy had just driven me across the state and I’d gotten into the event with a ticket that I hadn’t even paid him back for – but in honesty my one hope was that the teams were not tied at the end of regulation. I didn’t want to sit through overtime. I didn’t want to sit through a shootout. I wanted to leave as soon as possible. When Amy’s favorite player Tyler Bozak scored the goal that put Toronto ahead, I cheered on the inside while grieving with Tom on the outside, but when Michigan native Justin Abdelkader tied it back up I did the reverse. The game went into a scoreless round of overtime before Bozak struck again and won the game for Toronto.

I may have seemed like Mr. Endurance to the people at my work who shivered from just walking from their car to the entrance, but if they had heard me complain for hours like a little child I am certain they would have thought differently of me. As it was, I gained something much more valuable from the Winter Classic than Tom did. When Tom got back behind the wheel of his car he was forced to sit for hours in post-Winter Classic Ann Arbor traffic while thinking about how the Toronto Maple Leafs spoiled this momentous occasion for him. Amy had been watching the game from her parents’ warm living room on NBC and when she sent the inevitable text gloating about how her boy Bozak brought ruin to Tom’s Red Wings, I wished that I could have seen the cellular signal as it zipped across the state and intercepted the communication. I just couldn’t see more sorrow befall my buddy. Tom gained an experience that his friends couldn’t claim, but he also gained his fair share of sadness and remorse. As for me, I gained confidence in the resilience of my own body that would last me years.

As I prepared my life for the wife and children that seemed to be barreling straight for me, neither stopping to rest nor waiting for me to be ready, I imagined a day when I would take my children on a winter hike through the woods. I would be leading the pack, and they would be dragging their feet saying things like, “Can we go home yet?”, “I’m hungry,” or “I HAVE TO PEE!” It would be sunny outside without so much as a breeze and they would start complaining about how cold they were. I would stop, turn around, and I would say, confidently, like the crotchety old man I already feel myself transforming into, “You think this is cold? Let me tell you a story about when me and your Uncle Tom went to the Winter Classic in ’14.”

And the story wouldn’t end there, because this blog isn’t called The Longest Wind for nothing.

Tom and I were captured on the official HD Panorama. Don't we look excited to be out in the cold!

Tom and I were captured on the official HD Panorama. Don’t we look excited to be out in the cold!