by J.R. Lind
This Week In The 'Drome : Robin's return, tourney time, Longhorn letters, dumb domes and more
À la recherche du temps perdu vs. L’Étranger : The shambolic losing streak has, perhaps, numbed it somewhat, but expect an existential crisis only Sartre could love Saturday at 501 Broadway.
Ryan Suter returns, eight months after picking hotdish over hot chicken, and Nashville Predators fans struggle with how to handle his visit.
Certainly, Suter picked someone else, chose a new city and a new team and broke up the world's best defensive pair in the process. That hurts.
On the other hand, Suter gave the Predators seven good seasons and was part of the core group that pushed the team into the second round of the playoffs in consecutive years.
The former is easy to focus on and hyperbolize; the latter is an inconvenient fact.
His appearance on the ice in warmups for the first time in the hideous three-wolf-moon inspired Wild jersey will no doubt be greeted with boos — as well his name announced in the starting line-up and any subsequent touching of the puck, body check, sideways glance or dull smirk. He knows this — in this story from Josh Cooper, Suter says he knows that he'll get booed, that's its the fans' right to do so, but then he makes a sort-of half-hearted case that maybe he shouldn't be booed, citing his family and the fact that he knows everybody's name here.
But that first aesthetically perfect, Platonic ideal icing touch-up will be like Proust's madeline — the memories, the happy memories, will come rushing back.
And then the boos will return.
A tougher question — a much sterner existential crisis — is that of the tribute video. It's happened twice at Preds game already — for Steve Sullivan's return as a Coyote (that was a no-brainer) and for Jordin Tootoo's as a Red Wing. Both players received touching ovations at the conclusion of their highlight reels. And the boos quickly returned for Tootoo, exactly as noted.
If you'd asked me six months ago if there'd be a video for Suter, I'd have said no. But now I feel like one is coming. Heck, even Suter's former teammates are having a good laugh about his departure.
So enjoy the highlight reel — which I desperately hope is 90 seconds of icing touches — but rain the boos down too. That's going to be difficult, I know, because Suter knows the name of every security guard and arena worker and some how that's supposed to matter to you, but tough it out.
The Week Behind
California Demons : There's no need to sugarcoat this. The best part of the Predators trip to California is that it's over.
A 2-1 loss to similarly-struggling-for-shots San Jose and a 5-1 debacle in LA — it was 1-0 Kings headed into the third — gave Nashville a golden sombrero on their final swing of the season through the Golden State.
Jeff Carter had a hat trick for the Kings, which Barry Trotz described as a run of luck:
He got a little bit fortunate. It was a lucky night for him. You know he had, the first goal was a little bit lucky, second one was a little bit lucky, and then he had third one and obviously buried it.
Similarly, Carter scored three in a game against Nashville last year during his brief tenure as a Columbus Blue Jacket. The Jackets — of course — lost that game to Nashville, and Trotz said "He got his three goals and that was enough." Dismissing an opponents hat trick is pretty ballsy and at this point, a Predator getting three goals in a week would be enough quite frankly. Sometimes I get the idea Trotz doesn't care for Jeff Carter for some reason.
Anyway, the Preds can't score — same as it ever was, except last year when they rode a high shooting percentage and a stellar power play to a boatload of goals — so they did the logical thing and grabbed two shoot-first fellas off the waiver wire in Bobby "Billy" Butler and Zach "The Other" Boychuk. Depth wingers don't solve the problem — indeed the Preds have nothing but depth wingers as it is — but the claims cost you nothing and sometimes they even work out.
The longview says the Preds go through this every year — a run of garbage balanced out by a similar streak of consistency and a team that plays in the statistical margins with such verve will have that happen — but most years have 82 games to balance the mistakes, not 48. The bad spells need to be short — the rare three-day break couldn't have come at a better time — and the follow-on good ones need to be long.
Lookie Lookie Lookie There Goes Cookie : No one really understands the franchise tag but we hem and haw about it every spring as if it is the ultimate determining factor of an NFL team's Super Bowl prospects.
The Titans declined to tag Jared Cook and this was somehow related to whether or not he is a tight end or a receiver. Typically, tight ends don't drop crucial third down passes, but, also, typically wide receivers aren't built like '47 Chevy pick-ups.
Cook is a sui generis player and that made the franchise tag risky, so, in the end, it's probably best the Titans took a pass rather than ending up in front of an arbitrator. Now, some silly team will pay Cook $10 million and the Titans can find someone else to play tight end and drop crucial third down passes.
Garbage Time : Two TSU football players were arrested and suspended. ... The Titans did re-sign kicker Rob Bironas and defensive lineman Kenyuta Dawson, who was, apparently, on the team. ... Spoiler alert: Vandy can't score. ... Lipscomb's run at the A-Sun tourney ends quickly. ... TSU advanced in the OVC tournament, taking care of Morehead 88-75. ... Friend of the 'Drome and documentary superstar R.A. Dickey is Nashville's Sports Person of the Year.
Lonely Days Are Gone, I'm a-Going Home : The next step in Vince Young's rehabilitation and career salvation involves apologizing to former coach Jeff Fisher so, our baby, he wrote Fish a letter.
The specific contents therein are unknown, only because (somehow) the St. Louis Rams are not subject to FOIA, and it's too much to ask this letter was an assignment at some University of Texas class Young needs to complete his degree.
But the erstwhile scrambler did offer insight to ESPN:
"I definitely wanted to apologize for the things that I did, letting him know about the frustration, a lot of different things that was going on in my life at the time, and want him to know that I really did appreciate him trying to make me become one of those type of leaders on the team, a successful quarterback," he said.
He said during his time with the Titans he was "immature and not paying attention and not listening, and taking my frustration out on a lot of people wasn't the right thing to do."
Super Soakers : A nice piece by Kevin Walters, who went out and saw the scene as the Tennessee Association of Vintage Base Ball got underway.
Chronicle of A Death Foretold : Upon seeing this tweet from Chris Johnson, we fought back tears and began the painstaking process of dressing 'Drome headquarters in mourning, for it appeared our Official Favorite Thing — Chris Johnson's Twitter account — would be no more.
But, thankfully, we were able to put away widows' weeds, because CJ, that yuckster, was just having a laugh.
Instead of crying and rending and what not, we celebrated like CJ suggested.
Video Of The Week : Cool brief history doc on the Fairgrounds Speedway.
Long Read of The Week : Grantland finally got around to writing about sports in its namesake's old stomping grounds, as David Hill weaves a great tale about hockey, Spring Hill, Saturn, unions, The Union, complete with unnecessary digressions into obscure Civil War history (yes, I know)
The Week Ahead
Brackets of Blood : It's tournament time in basketball which, if nothing else, make it more or less impossible to plan anything more than about six hours in advance.
What we do know is that the Sun Belt tournament in lovely and bustling Hot Springs, Ark. starts tonight with MTSU, somehow one of the nation's hottest teams, as the top seed in their last year before the departure for Conference USA. Middle has been in position to win the league's automatic bid before and always seems to flummox themselves. They'll play the winner of Lafayette and North Texas tomorrow.
The SEC tournament takes over Bridgestone Arena (be mindful of jaywalking Kentucky fans, friends) next week and guessing the outcome would be as fruitless as guessing the seeding. Beyond Florida's top seed, it's tough to predict how the draw will shake out.
And ongoing over at Municipal, the OVC gets its dream semifinal (though surely they'd preferred it for the championship), as Belmont and TSU square off later today in Your Next Favorite Crosstown Rivalry.
Something Old, Something New : The Predators will try to get back on the winning track tonight against the young gun forwards and barely capable defense of the Edmonton Oilers and their traveling band of Hall of Fame* writers. Most importantly, it is a can't-miss game because it is Hal Gill Growth Chart night.
Saturday, of course, is the aforementioned game against Minnesota, a game that needs no introduction, although I gave it one.
Then it's back on the road, ceding the arena to the SEC for the basketball tournament. There's a tilt against future Conference III foe Dallas, against whom the Predators got their last win, roughly six weeks ago.
And finally it's to the Pacific Northwest, starting with a game against Vancouver.
Worthless Prediction: Three, no-joke gotta-win games here (although, per tradition, the Preds will give up a touchdown to the Oilers) and a winnable one against Vancouver. Not saying it's do or die time, but with the season half gone, it's pretty close.
Ginormodome : Nashville, seriously, get a grip.
Big-city papers declare you It City and GQ talks about our collective fashion sense or whatever they were doing and the next thing you know: you've gotta have a domed stadium.
You know why Nashville is Nashville and why people say all that It City business? Because we're not Atlanta or New Orleans or Houston or Minneapolis or (thank God) St. Louis or (thank Him again) Indianapolis.
We don't have to have everything that any other city on earth has.
We don't have to have a baseball team or a Super Bowl or a Champions Bowl or the Olympics or whatever else the usual suspects are talking about.
Domes are great in that they have multiple uses, can be used in all kinds of weather and can host Final Fours (we are not hosting a Final Four). Domes are bad in that they are extraordinarily expensive, expensive to maintain and impossible to expand.
Certainly, aim high, NashvilleNext, whatever and whoever you are, but let's be practical.
It was NashvilleNext-ish people who hamstrung this city's ability to have another big ticket civic project because they insisted on the utility of a $585 million Music City Center. Let's pay that bad boy off before we start erecting another monument to Karl Dean's political ambitions and Butch Spyridon's desire to sell 70 million room-nights with $400 trillion of economic impact or whatever it is he says about the quilting convention.
If we wanted a dome, we should have built one 15 years ago when instead we opted to pick "cheap and quick" in the classic contractors' triad. And in 15 more years, let's be worried about actually keeping the football team — maybe they'll pay for their own stadium this time — and not about building them a dome on the taxpayers' back.
And for now, remember it's what we have that made us the It City, not what we wish we have.
Notes and complaints at jrlind[at]nashvillescene[dot]com. Ears on at 6 pm Tuesdays at 102.5 The Game.