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May 30, 2009

2009 Stanley Cup Penguins

For related posts, also see : Stanley Cup Game Seven, and Good News, Jobs Well Done

The following image is presented as a public service. I'll explain later.

Yinz Love Sports References, N'At

Here's what's important: Friday morning, I go see a doctor, a specialist, an experienced and eloquent gentlemen. There's a reason I'm going to see him -- it's important, but not melodramatic. There 3.2 gazillion people that are worse off than I am. The good Doctor (and he's a very nice man, a very smart person, and I'm truly lucky to have him on my side) looks at my charts, makes a few notes, and says to me: "It's just like Crosby says, you know..."

Who the hell is Crosby? Bing Crosby? I look at this good and learned physician, I think about his age and my age, and I think he must have said Cosby, Bill Cosby, and I start trying to figure it out. What does Cosby say? Education is important? Pudding is good? I'm replaying Cosby records in my mind, Fat Albert, little children saying "I don't know", and it's going no where for me. I just don't get it. His message did not get to me, I can't decode it, which concerns me because I need to understand what this man is telling me.

"Cosby?", I ask. "Bill Cosby?"

"No. Not Cosby, Crosby. Sidney Crosby. You know what he says." (I can't bring myself to capitalize the H in He.)

"I'm sorry", I say. "Help me out on this, Doc. What does Crosby say?"

"Play like it's the third period." The doctor gives me a knowing grin. I realize this isn't going to get any better. I grin foolishly and move on. I ask a lot of questions, he gives me answers and explanations, and I come away confident I've understood the essence of it.

Desperately Seeking Translation

I have a colleague named Jen who's a hockey fan, and I believe that Crosby is a hockey player. I say to her, Crosby is a hockey player, right? She gives me a look somewhat akin to, Is the Pope Catholic? "World's best hockey player, except for Youghaghenny Malkin", she tells me. I really dislike having to do this. I ask, How many periods in a hockey game? "Three periods", she tells me. I realize this is bad news. I thought there were four periods in a hockey game.

If there were four periods in a hockey game, then the Doctor's anecdote means: it's time to pay attention to this. Nothing extraordinary, respond in moderation, no big thing. But if there's only three periods in a hockey game, then the Doctor's anecdote means: "This is the time. Win it or lose it. Don't leave anything on the ice. You should be hearing footsteps. Buzzer's coming.". I hate that hockey only has three periods.

I am somewhat dismayed that we can't communicate in Pittsburgh without sports metaphors. You have to know what the announcer's routine punchlines are — and here's the thing, in most cities, punchlines aren't routine - that's why they're punchlines. Only in Pittsburgh do people get paid to repeat once-popular phrases. The cultural embrace of sports metaphors is, I know, an unfortunate fact of life in the Burgh. And when in Rome, do as the Yinzers do.

I don't think this happens in other places. For instance, if you see a Doctor in Charlotte, NC, I don't think he's going to say: "Take two pills every Jeff Gordon; if you're not feeling better in a Jimmy Johnson, call the office. (Translation: two pills every 24 hours; if you're not better in 48 hours, call the office). I'm also sure the Doctor doesn't break bad news by saying, "Son, they're waving the surface flag at you. Jethro you ain't gonna last no longer than a Hardee's ham-n-egg biscuit on two-for-one Tuesday.

Obscure Pittsburgh-Charlotte Joke: When USAir, PSA, and Piedmont were merging, the flight simulator staff used to say, How can you tell what airline the last simulator pilot was from?
  • USAir pilot: styrofoam coffee cups everywhere
  • PSA Surfer-Dude: sand on the floor from his chart bag
  • Piedmont pilot: boogers on the IDENT button
(IMO: Piedmont was a great airline, and I'm sorry that USAir's cool northern efficiency happened to the airline that Tom Davis built.)

Hockey's Attraction

2009 Stanley Cup In Context

I don't go out with my wife often enough. Last Saturday I got to take her out for dinner. We went to a great Mexican restaurant in Leetsdale. The whole place is captivated by the hockey game. I have food but no utensils; everybody's paying attention to the game. I can't hear our conversation. But it's no slam on the restaurant (which is a great place) -- it's what everybody here does. Generally, I go to restaurants to eat, and this usually doesn't involve the whole place watching television and cheering. I don't get that people cheer for the replays; there's no extra points for the replays. I guess the Penguins won.

This last Tuesday I was very pleased to go to an Honors Ceremony at my son's high school. They present awards and medals to students from the various classes. It amazed me how many people didn't come - there were open seats, and there's never open seats at this event. The teachers were making jokes about being brief so they could get home for the end of the hockey game. Parents were sitting there wearing earbuds, with headset wires sneaking into their jacket pockets so they could listen to the Penguins on the radio. This amazes me. More than one parent said, Shame this happened on a hockey night. O, the tragedy: Brittney won the physics medal, but we had to go get the damned thing on a hockey night! It's more torturous than Schrodinger's cat. The Penguins won that night, too.

Non-Inclusive Exclusive Communication

When I first moved here and recognized the local pattern of sports metaphors, I thought: hey, maybe now I can understand how poor business communication often excludes people. There's a meeting with four men and a woman, one of the guys drops a football metaphor - "time to punt" - the guys all get it, the woman doesn't, she's marginalized and excluded from the conversation. I thought, hey maybe this will help me to avoid communicating with inappropriate metaphors.

In Pittsburgh even the women use sports references. I was in a meeting and we were talking about who would handle a particular project. A professional woman said, "I'm all over that like Polamalu. I'm left thinking, when did we get a new Italian guy?

2009 Stanley Cup Planning Schedule

At the beginning of this post, I presented the 2009 Stanley Cup schedule as a public service, and I repeat it below for the same reason - so you can plan your dinner dates. If you're taking a date out for dinner on any of these nights, you may have to recalibrate your expectations for a quiet romantic dinner. It's not going to happen.
Get in the fast lane Grandma, the bingo game's ready to roll!


Bram Reichbaum said...

Yeah but neither Sidney Crosby or the doctor said, "It's the third period". Your doctor said, "Play like it's the third period".

Obviously the outcome is uncertain, but maybe he means this is a time you could DESPERATELY USE a leg up. Like you have stablized at a precarious position and one breakthrough now could take a lot of pressure off. So PLAY LIKE IT'S the third period and maybe going into the third period, you'll have a cushion. PLAY LIKE IT'S NOT, and well ... the third period may be tougher.

Vannevar said...

Thank you Bram. That's a good point and obviously a kind thought. I do need help with these sports metaphors. Play Ball (n'at), Vannevar.

Lady Elaine said...

So, like, are you dying?

Vannevar said...

Hello Lady Elaine, Gosh no! I didn't intend to come across as dramatic or dying. I'm flattered that you asked. It's very nice of you. Life is good, there's about 3.2 gazillion people that are worse off than I am.

I was trying to use my Friday experience (which truly happened) to write about the Stanley Cup in a different way from the normal "Go Mario".

It's just odd to me that you can go see a specialist, and they communicate in terms of Black and Gold n'at. I don't think this happens elsewhere. I don't think doctors in Charlotte use NASCAR metaphors.

I love the Burgh. I've chosen to live here, and I can be anywhere I'd like in the country. This is a great place to live. I like Pittsburgh and Pittsburghers. We've just got our unique tweaks.

I apologize for concerning you, I botched the writing, and I really do appreciate that yinz care.
Cheers, Vannevar (who isn't dying)

Bob Mayo said...

We're all hoping for good health for you, Vannevar. This is a great post and I enjoy your writing.

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