Lindbloom’s View: These Dog Days of August

Lindbloom_2014Aug25_bottom“To keep the juices flowing, jangle around gently as you move.” – Satchel Paige

By Rich Lindbloom

Life is filled with unsearchable mysteries. Do the pink Good and Plenty’s taste better than the white ones? (If not, why do I always go for the pink ones?) Concomitantly, why do I shy away from the chocolate M&M’s? We actually had a guy at work who only ate the blue ones!

Why does a dog smell the same spot for a short eternity? Or circle around 10 times before dropping his payload? Why do they stick their head out the window of a car, yet if you blow on their face they get agitated? And just what is their affinity for fire hydrants all about?

Why is it our brilliant Government officials believe they can control the heat emanating from the sun, like a thermostat in a house? I remember telling one of my cohorts at work, “Do you realize our heat source is 93 million miles away!” She quickly replied, “My heat source comes from my furnace.” I don’t think “Red” spent much time contemplating life’s unfathomable mysteries; there’s a lot to be said for that.

Are women born with a shopping gene? Are men born with a gene that precludes them from seeing a doctor unless an artery is severed or a bone is sticking through their skin? How is it a kid can make it to age 18 on a diet that consisted largely of Frosted Flakes, Coco Puffs and Sugar Smacks. (My son is living proof!)

To be more serious for a moment, how did we get here? Where are we going to when we breathe our last breath? Why can’t our minds begin to grasp the concept of infinity – it has to stop somewhere, right? (Boy, I’m glad I’m not a mathematician. I don’t know how they can sleep at night.)

Could the “Theory” of Evolution really be responsible for the chance compilation of something as complex as the human body? At what point in Evolution did sexual reproduction enter the picture – and how did the separate male and female organs evolve at precisely the same time to insure the exchange of genetic material? (And please don’t raise your hand and say Hermaphroditic plants. As Achmed the terrorist would say if you do raise that defense, “I kill you!”)

Perhaps one of the greatest mysteries of all is what a hockey fan does to keep himself amused during the Dog Days of August.

August is a good month to spend in the great outdoors, at least until the blood sucking mosquitoes come out. Sooner or later you have to come in and check to the boob tube. (Could it be termed the fat screen in today’s lingo?) Personally, I’ve tried getting interested in the Sox, but that usually only lasts until their relievers enter the picture. There’s CSI, old comedies, movies we’ve already seen – hell I even checked out “Brazilian Butts.”

Invariably, I finally punch in station 215, the NHL network to see if anything interesting is happening in the lengthy hiatus between mid-June and early September. Regrettably, I seldom find anything of interest even on that station. I bring this up because the new commandant at Second City Hockey, Satchel Price, came to the same conclusion in a piece on Friday.

He was talking about preseason games and how they can begin to get us excited as we get ready for the 2014/15 season.  He noted they were at least more exciting than the old replays of games from the olden days. Although Satchel may be a bit Sybil-ish, (after all he’s named after a great black pitcher, covers basketball, and loves hockey), he did raise a salient point. That was until…

I came home on the day that Satchel wrote the piece, “Breaking down the Blackhawks Preseason Schedule” and decided to get in my bi-monthly exercise routine. After I had dusted off the Bowflex I turned on, you guessed it, The NHL Network. They were showing a replay of the 1996 World Cup Final game between ‘Merica and Canada. As soon as I turned it on, Wayne Gretzky did one of his absurd Gretzky like things and I was hooked. I am convinced that #99 had a set of eyes in the back of his head. Seriously, it’s the only explanation.

Of course, the World Cup games were played during the Dog Days of August, just prior to the start of the NHL season. For a hockey fan it was like a kid hearing and then spotting the Good Humor truck.

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Here were some of the names of the contestants that battled in that three game series for the two squads;

The Lumberjacks: Wayne Gretzky, Rob Blake, Rod Brind’ Amour, Martin Brodeur, Paul Coffey, Adam Foote, Curtis Joseph, Claude Lemieux (once noted in a TSN piece “The top ten most hated players in the NHL.” He was not a nice man.), Trevor Linden (6’4″, 220lbs!), Eric Lindros, Mark Messier, Joe Sakic, Steve Yzerman, Scott Niedemeyer, Ed Jovanovski, Scott Stevens among others.

From the Home of the Brave: Tony Amonte, Chris Chelios, Adam Deadmarsh, Bill Guerin, Derian Hatcher (6’5″, 220 – one hell of a d-dawg), Phil Housley, Brett Hull (yes his stick was below the crossbar), Pat LaFontaine, John LeClair, Brian Leetch, Mike Modano, Joel Otto, Mike Richter (who should have been nicknamed sphincter with his battening down of the hatches in this tourney), Gary Suter, Keith Tkachuk and Doug Weight among the notables.

The three game Championship Series turned into a friendly rivalry gone bad. Real bad, as in “go kneel in the corner on your hands, bad.” (There are times I think the nuns at St. Annes could have easily extracted information out of terrorists.) In the round-robin portion of the tournament, the two teams got into a full scale brouhaha, probably incited by the blood thirsty Flyer fans in The City of Brotherly Love where Game One was contested. The people in Donnybrook, Ireland would have nodded their Guinness laden approval.

Keith Tkachuk broke Claude Lemieux’s nose in that warfare, errr, I mean game. Two New Jersey Devil teammates, Scott Stevens and Bill Guerin, certainly showed little love for each other in a very entertaining go at it. Watching the replay, I believe Guerin won that bout! The dude displayed an assortment of pugilistic skills that Muhammad Ali would have been proud of. And remember, this was only the Round Robin game.

The USA lost Game One of the series on an offside goal by Steve Yzerman with seconds to go in the first OT. The Americans had tied the game with about 12 seconds left in regulation. The American team won Game two 5-2, but, reportedly, the game was much closer than the final outcome. (Two empty netters at the end of the game) Canada had the home ice advantage, playing Games Two and Three in the Montreal. The flag waving crowd was worked up into a piraña-like frenzy for Game Three. The Canadians do not take these affairs lightly!

I have never witnessed a more exciting game – ever.  Every square inch of ice was rigorously contested. The game was played at a furious pace, in a physically punishing manner. I can’t begin to emphasize how physical this game was. Olivia Newton John would have loved how the player’s bodies talked. Also, a quick glance at the rosters will give you an idea of the incredible skill level on both teams.

It was a case of the text book example of the old hockey axiom, “Finish your check.” Many times, these checks occurred two seconds after a player got rid of the hot potato. In what would be called interference in today’s NHL, defenseman routinely prevented forecheckers from getting to the puck – often times with play that bordered on a street corner mugging in Englewood. You literally were taking your life into your own hands if you were caught loitering near the crease. Let me tell you something; Chris Chelios knew how to take out the garbage. Thankfully, the ref was letting the boys have a go at it.

Brett Hull, son of a former Hawk player of note, scored the only goal in the first period. Eric Lindros tied the game in the waning moments of the second period on a power play goal that resulted from a five minute major to Keith Tkachuk for swinging his stick like a battle axe at one of the Canadian players. (the Canadian player was assessed four minutes for his axe work also – at any rate, Brian Boru would have been proud of their efforts.)

At the end of two periods, the Canadian’s had outshot the USA 32-14. Mike Richter was phenomenal, and was eventually named the tourney MVP. One thing that really struck me as I joyfully watched this affair, was just how good a player Tony Amonte was.  He was every bit of the equal of any player on the ice in that game. In a game laden with talent such as this, Amonte somehow stood out.

What amazed me in this game was the passing. If a player was ahead of someone with the puck, they bumped it up to them. It was full speed ahead. Gretzky was incredible, finding wide open teammates with his x-ray vision. So many of his passes led to wide open spaces, you know, where the buffalo’s roam. (I believe that is one of Patrick Kane’s greatest assets.)

After Canada tied the game at 1-1, it appeared the momentum would swing in Canada’s favor. However, the USA carried the play throughout most of the third period, much to the announcer’s chagrin. At about the 11 minute mark offensive juggernaut Adam Foote, sent a seemingly harmless wrister over a screened Richter’s left shoulder for his first point of the tournament. The entire Canadian bench had broad smiles on their face contemplating this seeming incongruity. Even Foote sort of shrugged his shoulders – another one of life’s unsearchable mysteries, eh? At any rate, it was suddenly 2-1 Canada, with about 9 minutes to go. It did not look promising for the Mudville 9.

I do want to stress one point – in my mind, the outcome of this game had little impact on why I thought it was one of the greatest games ever played. Watching these two teams battle, physically pounding each other, while skating their asses off, was just a treat to watch. It was amazing no one was carted off the ice on a stretcher. Yet somehow, with under five minutes to go in the game, the American’s tallied four goals!

The game tying goal was a Brett Hull deflection of a Brian Leetch shot from the point. The goal was reviewed, as Hull’s stick blade appeared to make contact just below the cross bar, if you were an American fan. They didn’t have all the different camera angles back then; if they had I’m not so sure the goal would not have been overturned.

Moments later, Tony Amonte knocked in a goal which appeared to be a combination of his skate and stick. Back to Toronto, (or where ever they went in those days), and again it was determined to be a good goal. The Canadians mounted a furious comeback attempt. On a beautiful play, somehow the Canadians got the puck to a wide open Gretzky, only to see the puck take an in-fortuitous bounce over his eager stick. Prior to that, Mark Messier fanned on a shot as he barreled down on Richter all alone.

After the Great One’s near miss, the USA added an empty net goal and one more after that to send the bench and coaches into a jubilant, sweaty, man hugging man celebration. It was truly a Monty Python “men, men, men, men” moment. The Canadian bench was put on suicide watch.

In my opinion, the great game of hockey was the winner that day.

I read the following on the game; “But as play-by play man Mike “Doc” Emerick said on the American broadcast as the final few seconds ticked off the clock, ‘This win against Canada was not a miracle pulled off by an unlikely group of players; it was a milestone engineered by arguably the greatest hockey team the United States has ever put together.'”

After watching that game, I might argue it still is the best US team to ever be assembled.

So why did this game pop up on the NHL station at precisely the time I tried to counteract time and nature changing my proportions? Did the Hawks finally solve their #2 center position with Richards? (I vote an emphatic yes, the dude can still play-take that to the bank.) How do salmon find the river they were born in when they go back to spawn? At what point in evolution did man and dog become inseparable allies? Do the swallows have GPS as they head back down to Capistrano?

I can’t answer those questions. Two things I do know; first the pink Good and Plentys do taste better; secondly, on a hot and muggy day in August, clearly the Dog Days of August for hockey nuts, (and I think you know who you are), I was treated to a replay of one of the greatest hockey games ever played.

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Tony Amonte celebrates the game winner!

Other important stuff:

Can we get “Sirius” for a moment? From all appearances Homewood seems to be going to the dogs. On August 18th, Homewood held its annual “Dog days of summer” event at Irwin Park. The event was a howling success. The Westminster Dog show got nothing on Homewood! Upon researching the term “Dog days of Summer,” I was surprised to discover it actually has an astrological significance. “It is the period of time that runs for 20 days before to 20 days after the conjunction of the Dog Star, Sirius, and the Sun.” I’m not sure what they mean by the conjunction of the Sun and Sirius. However, in the Midwest it means hot, muggy, and sultry and is typified by mad dashes for the air conditioning.

Hey, I’ve got a great idea. Let’s start two-a-day football practices! “Full equipment you dawgs, give me twenty,” barks a Ditka like maniac. Please, humor me as I dwell on this creature called “man’s best friend.”

Currently there are over 400 recognized breeds of our hirsute companions. They range from the feisty 3 lb. Yorky, to the Bull Mastiff, tipping the scales in the upper 100’s. There appeared to be about 100 different breed’s present at Dog Days. While I was not naked to the world, there were black ones, round ones, big ones, and crazy ones. Actually geneticists insist all dogs have descended from the gray wolf. Nowhere in the animal kingdom is there such diversity of shapes and colors. This diversity can’t be explained alone by man’s tinkering with, “I wonder what will come out if we mix these two together.”

One author compared dogs to parasites; there is some verisimilitude to that. Actually, dogs can also have a symbiotic relation with man. Petting a dog is supposed to reduce one’s blood pressure. They can be a semi-effective burglar alarm, although I’m certain our Akita would give away the store for Dairy Queen. When no one else in the home will talk to you, your dog will wag his tail like you’re the only person in the world that matters. Dogs have also been used for police work, shepherding and Canine Companions. In reality though, their main purpose was described quite accurately by an author’s daughter, “Dad, they’re love sponges!”

I think they easily trump a hamster or ferret. Also, while our cat appears to tolerate my existence as a necessary evil, our dogs actually relish my company. Yes, yes, I know about the “presents” the cute kitty leaves on the door step. We’ve had our fair share of beheaded rabbits, mice and moles scattered on the welcome mat. Yet, more and more I’m convinced these “Gifts” are actually warnings, similar to the horse head found in the bed in the movie, “The Godfather.”

I’ve reflected on numerous dog sayings and will translate them for you cat lovers. “My dog’s a barking,” – my feet hurt like hell. “The world is going to the dogs,” – the world is a mess and someone better pick it up. When American Idol’s Randy says, “What’s up dawg,” he’s acknowledging that even though the person is howling like a dog, he is a hep-cat, or hip. ”The hair of the dog,” – a remedy for someone who had last call at the Fifth Quarter. “Hurting like a puppy,” – describes the condition of the person who is searching for “The hair of the dog.”

“Doggone it,” – the dog has snuck out the door and has made a break for it. “Doggone shame,” – it’s a shame the dog has escaped. “You ain’t nothing but a hound dog,” – refers to Elvis’s dog, who most likely has never caught a rabbit. “Dog tired,” – Elvis’s dog after a brief chase. “Dogged determination” – I will sit and beg for food as long as it takes. “Barking up the wrong tree,” – a wife gets upset with her husband for something the kids did. “In the dog house,” – another indication of an unhappy spouse. “Howling at the moon,” – girl, you crazy. “Hot dog,” – a kids favorite meal or a long haired Akita in August. “Get off me dog,” – I’m not in the mood.

“Don’t dog me,” – quit bothering me, or a kids ill-advised response to a parent who has asked them to clean up their room for the 10th time. “Tail wagging the dog,” – the inmates are running the asylum. “Don’t kick a dog when he’s down,” – the sportsmanship shown by the World Series little league champs from Georgia a few years ago. After they had won the title with a walk off homer in extra innings they wildly celebrated… until they noticed the Japanese players were crying. They stopped their celebrating and went over to commiserate with their worthy opponents. “Heel,” – assume escape position! Finally, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks – my kids know more about the computer than I do!

My wife and I have chased after 4 dogs over the last 17 years. Our first dog came after Nathalie said something that made so much sense, it was futile to argue with her. My main argument for not getting a dog was, “what are we going to do when we want to go somewhere?” Nathalie’s reply caught me off balance; “What are we going to do when we have kids?” Well, shut my mouth. When we went to look for our first dog I tried my best to show her I was allergic. After rigorously petting the puppy, I rubbed my eyes and nose. Surely this would bring on an allergic reaction. Alas, I don’t think Fuji had any dander yet.

Needless to say Fuji Monster, a midnight black Akita, with a white tip on his tail, took up residence at our home. A year later, we added Meisje (also known as pork chop) and had double the trouble, double the fun.

One hot summer’s day, Nathalie, her cousin Frank and I went canoeing down the Kankakee River. I was in one canoe, while Frank, Nathalie and Fuji were in the other. About half way down the river, Fuji decided he had to relieve himself. Hearing Nathalie and Frank screaming frantically at him to stop was quite humorous. The funniest part was when Fuji finished his business, he jumped into the dry canoe with me. To make matters worse, he tipped their canoe over when he jumped!

In another incidence, I was taking a shower on a beautiful day when I thought I heard thunder. I looked outside the window and realized there was not a cloud in the sky. “Rut row,” as Scooby Doo would say. Jumping out of the shower I flung open the bathroom door to see the Fujster violently shaking Nathalie’s pillow. There were feathers everywhere. I’m not sure why, but he destroyed 3 of Nathalie’s pillows. As Nathalie noted, he could be a bad “Fluffy Wuffy” at times. On the positive side of the ledger, walking those two behemoths introduced us to the wonderful trails at Izaak Walton.

Two other dogs who took up residence at our house were a 105 lb. Akita and a 30 lb. Wheaten Terrierorist who I believed was trained by Al Qaeda or ISIS. We had some friends who were not dog lovers, but spent a lot of time with us. Now, if you’ve owned a dog you know you’re going to have a few issues.

Bob started numbering these issues. Reason # 273 not to have a dog was when Meeko decided he was bored and chewed our kitchen furniture. Reason # 278 happened during a violent thunderstorm. Meeko inadvertently closed the bathroom door. He panicked, and proceeded to rip off the molding, the inside of the door, and finally just rammed his way through. Zoie, also known as Zobo the Hobo, Zobonstein, the Zobonator, and other questionable scrabble words, has weaseled her way unto the new couch. One day before we left, I put paper on the couch. “That ought to fix her,” I thought. When we returned, all the paper was in shreds on the floor. Everybody in the family was laughing but me.

While I put my finishing thoughts on paper, I notice Zobo is staring at me while lying on the forbidden furniture. She knows it’s about time to go for that treasured walk. Worlds of scents await her and Meeko’s advanced olfactory systems. While walking the hounds last night I was treated to an incredible full moon that seemingly danced between the clouds. If we can get Sirius again for a moment, I think all us dog lovers would be well advised to heed the advice I saw on a plaque recently; “Lord, help me to become half the person my dog thinks I am.” And as these dog days of summer end, crack open the windows and howl at the moon!

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Hockey season is finally approaching.

Rich Lindbloom

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