Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The 1,000th post: DBJ's quest for understanding in the land of the Mayans

[In honor of the Dark Blue Jacket blog's 1,000th post, I thought I'd share with everyone what I was up to over the past couple of weeks while Gallos, Alison, Greg and Rick made you forget I was gone.  Like most of my best work, please take everything herein with a grain of salt...it's all in fun, just as this blog is supposed to be.]

Part I: LOST IN PARADISE

It was January 8th.  I was one day into my annual retreat from the real world yet, like most vacations, I couldn't turn my brain entirely off like a switch from the matters of the day...like a Blue Jackets game, this one against the Mighty (chuckle) Ducks of Anaheim.  The Jackets lost - not exactly a surprise - but they got shelled for (gasp!) seven goals en route to a 7-4 loss.  Ugly begat ugly, but it just didn't hurt as bad when I was catching bits and pieces of the game via NHL GameCenter Live from my balcony overlooking the Caribbean Sea.  In fact, I was so pleased with my game-watching experience that I snapped a photo:

Little did I know at the time that this was a snapshot of the final minutes of
Scott Arniel's Columbus Blue Jackets coaching career. 
I learned that Scott Arniel got the ziggy the following morning when general manager Scott Howson all but conceded what fans like - oh, I dunno, yours truly - have been saying since October: Barring an early season game-changing move that never came, the season was lost and it was time to look to 2012-13.

Is it that easy, though? Can a diehard (yet pragmatic) fan just accept his team Carrying The White Flag with half the season left, especially when hopes were so high for this roster and its slew of offseason acquisitions?

Nope, it's not...which left me 1,354 miles from home, virtually alone in my Blue Jackets fanhood, and grasping for answers that just weren't coming.   I was lost.
On the evening of the 9th, the DBJ family went into town to grab a bite to eat and sample the local culture and nightlife as only a trio of wannabe-Cleavers can do.  We passed by the taquerias, the silver jewelry stores that made me thrilled that Mrs. DBJ doesn't wear silver, the Italian eateries, the convenience stores carved out of the locals' living rooms, the overpriced "fusion" experiences, the countless gelato shoppes, the vendors selling colorful ponchos (with all sorts of pro sports teams logos on them - no Blue Jackets, though, as I would've grabbed one if they had it).

And then I saw it, stuffed behind the "I make your name bracelet in five minutes" sign at a streetside stand.  Eight bucks ("But for you, seƱor, I sell it for six.").  What was it, you ask?



Part II: CRACKING THE MAYAN CODE

All prophecies in this blog post came directly
from this text.  Really.  Verbatim.
It was a small book listing the Mayan prophecies as we hit the end of their calendar in December 2012.  I bought it and was on my way to making sense of the chaos that was the 2011-12 Blue Jackets season.  Or at least I thought I was.

We returned to our villa from a very satisfying dinner that, for yours truly, involved a terrific arrachera that was doused in a ridiculously good chimichurri topping. Upon putting the Dark Blue Toddler to bed and kissing a tired Mrs. DBJ good night, I opened up this accordion-shaped publication in the hopes of having the Mayans' secrets of the universe bestowed upon me.

Seven prophecies to announce the beginning of the sixth Sun cycle.  And, like everything else, they surely had to relate to the NHL...and the Columbus Blue Jackets.

First Prophecy

On December 22nd, 2012, the Sun will begin its sixth cycle.  Every 5,125 years the Sun receives a spark of light from the center of the galaxy, which produces solar eruptions and magnetic changes, with a giant shining blaze; this makes the Earth's rotation axis shift and consequently causes huge cataclysms.

Man must be prepared for the change to a new era.  Whatever does not move toward perfection has to disappear. Since 1992, we have entered "time without time," the equivalent for the Maya to entering the great room of mirrors, in which each individual will be faced with his behavior toward himself, the others, nature and the planet.  This way, Man would decide to change, get rid of fear, the lack of respect and dissatisfaction and let the spiritual values evolve in harmony with the Universe.

What?  Huge cataclysms?  Was Bettman prescient in pushing the NHL southward, somehow knowing that a shift in the Earth's axis would make the generation of ice in Florida a plausible idea when the Sunshine State is plunged into never-ending winter?  Will Detroit finally implode?  Would a self-respecting cataclysm even bother itself with Nashville?  Guess we'll find out in December.

And what of the Blue Jackets?  If Man will be faced with his behavior toward himself, his world and everything in between, do you think the Blue Jackets roster will face up to their underperforming selves?  Will player leadership light a fire under the squad?  Will that evolution in harmony with the Universe mean that we fans might actually witness the team developing some chemistry?  Could the CBJ finally stop being scared of the Central Division?  (We are still getting another year of the Central, right?  With the NHLPA vetoing the realignment plan?)

Spiritually speaking...will the CBJ's resident demon, Derek Dorsett, find God?

Second Prophecy

Since the 1999 solar eclipse, we have lived in an era of conflicts, wars and collective madness.  On Decemver 22nd, 2012, the energy we receive from the centre of the galaxy will increase and accelerate the vibration in the entire universe to lead it to a greater perfection.  This will produce changes in the Sun, the Earth and psychological changes in Man, by altering his behavior, way of thinking and feeling.  

Man will have to face his fears and anguishes to solve them and this way he will be able to synchronize with the universe.  The human race will focus on its negative side and will see clearly what we are doing wrong.  This is the first step to change attitude and achieve unity.  There will be an increasing number of events that will take us apart bit also of others that will bring us together: aggression, hatred, split families, confrontations due to ideologies will be on the rise; but at the same time, more people will find peace, learn how to control their emotions and become less intolerant.

Wait a minute: This "era of conflicts" started in 1999?  And the CBJ took the ice in 2000?  So this team has been in existence only through this era of Mayan-predicted upheaval?  Well, that explains our 1,500 head coaches and zero playoff wins.

But here's the problem with the CBJ when it comes to this whole "Man facing fears" and stuff.  The "man" who's supposed to change the attitude in the locker room, and by extension in the fanbase...I'm not sure he's human.
I will kill John Connor by drafting
him and starting him in goal!
Seriously, how else can you explain the Legion of Feckless Ex-Captains?  What about letting Mike Peca just...go?  Or thinking Steve Mason was still the answer coming into this season?  That Jeff Carter would play like he wanted to be in Columbus?  With that type of tin ear at the helm, how can the Blue Jackets synchronize with the hockey universe?

Then we have the "events that will tear us apart" - well, that's clear as a bell...another coaching search.  Even the "newbie" Blue Jacket fans who (like me) really jumped on the bandwagon after The Playoff Appearance of 2009 have been through this rodeo.  We'll all take sides based upon lists of prospective coaches that we really don't know built off of rumor and innuendo and then tear each other to pieces while Howson proceeds to pick precisely the wrong guy from a list that in hindsight will be filled with right guys.  Talk about clash of ideologies!

Third Prophecy

A heat wave will raise the planet temperature, and produce climatic, geological and social changes on an unprecedented scale, because of Man's destruction and irresponsibility and because the Sun will accelerate its activity and radiation.

A change in individual and collective behavior is necessary to assume the commitment of daily actions that contribute to improve the ecology of the planet and achieve total harmony between Man's actions and his environment.

Ouch - guess we need to scratch that inference that hockey in Florida was a good idea.  The notion of watching hockey in shorts, however, does sound nice!  I suppose I could start recycling for that.

Fourth Prophecy

The 584-day Venus spin was the basis used by the Maya to make their solar calculations; every 117 spins the Sun suffers alterations and spots.  They noticed that every 5,125 years even greater alterations occur; the changes in solar activity will be increasingly stronger, the electromagnetic shield that protects us is getting smaller.  The poles will melt down, there will be stronger solar wind, more massive sun eruptions, an increase in radiation and higher temperatures all over the planet.

We must focus on producing positive results for our actions and at the same time keep growing in spite of the difficulties we are faced with.  We must assume life and make our decisions in a conscious way.

To this CBJ fan, that sure sounds like the "faith-based fanhood" that we know and embrace so well: Keep rooting like mad for the team despite the fact that their inner core is a white hot mess that melted down somewhere around the first third of the 2009-10 season and hasn't recovered since that point.  Yet we keep the faith, rooting on, offering Calls to Arms (which, by the way, remains a masterwork of sports fan video) despite the cold slap of reality at every turn.

Fifth Prophecy

All the systems based on fear will be transformed at the same time as the planet; Man believes the universe exists for him only, that mankind is the only intelligent expression of life, and therefore he acts as a predator.  No system will make Man face himself and understand the need to reorganize society and continue the process of evolution, peace and harmony.  Then whatever fails to produce this result shall disappear since a new era of light cannot be based on truths imposed upon mankind through force.  

There's something in this that speaks to the state of the Blue Jackets locker room ("universe exists for him only"), but I'm not sure exactly where the Mayans were going.  So let's jump to number six.

Sixth Prophecy

A comet will come whose path might make it crash with Earth and jeopardize the very existence of mankind.

The Maya knew that for modern man, discovering such a big asteroid ahead of time and being able to deflect it, whether through physical or psychic means, would be one of the major achievements of human history and a crucial fact that would unite us as a species.  We must learn to overcome the separation that is the ground of our society.  We must build a level of cooperation and international unity.

If this is taken literally, we're probably screwed and hockey will be the least of our issues.

Taken metaphorically, however, the hockey fan's mind turns to the upcoming labor negotiations and the potential for another lockout season - which is as close to a cataclysm as this sport gets.  And while such negotiations are always darkest before the dawn, I would tend to agree that a swift and smooth agreement to keep the NHL machine humming along would be a major achievement.

A Blue Jackets fan might also take the more localized view and see this as the long-discussed roster shakeout.  Might we actually see the theorized "nuclear option" and witness the Blue Jackets' roster core blow up and get scattered throughout the NHL, AHL and Europe?

Seventh Prophecy

In 2012 the greatest planet transformation ever will occur, the energy of the ray transmitted from the center of the galaxy will synchronize all living beings and allow them to voluntarily achieve an inner transformation that will produce new realities, by receiving new meaning: communication through thought, men who will reach a state of inner peace, raise their vital energy from fear to love and activate the genetic Code of divine origin.

The ability to read man's mind will revolutionize civilization and put an end to lies forever, because nobody will be able to hide anything.  It will be an era of transparency and light, in which each individual will be responsible for his acts; and excellence and spiritual development will be the result of men living in harmony.

Mind reading?  Hot dang!  Now we're onto something.  Of course, we'll be mind reading in a world that's been hit by a meteorite and is suffering from melted ice caps, but what the heck...I'll play along.

Imagine what mind reading could do for this team, especially with coaching.  We all know that Ken Hitchcock had some mad skills on this front - witness his ability to work miracles as "The Nash Whisperer," transforming the captain into a genuine two-way monster - but I'm not sure any other of the countless Blue Jackets coaches have shown the same ability.  Should make the coaching search interesting, to be sure.  ("If you were a tree, whose mind would you read?"  No, that sounds stupid...)

The one thing that makes me nervous about this prophecy is the whole "transparency and light" thing being predicated on Man.  As in, a Man has to be the one to be transparent, to bring light and take responsibility - to bring excellence to the organization.  But what if the "man" responsible for building the roster...is not a Man but a T-2000 robot from the future?

Yup.  We're S.O.L.
The knowledge imparted by the seven Mayan prophecies only left me with more questions - when I so desperately needed answers.  There must be more to the story, and I would have to go seek it out.



Part III: THE PILGRIMAGE

Unfulfilled by the text of the Mayan prophecies, I needed more.  If the words wouldn't help me, I would go to the source.  I ran down to the travel desk, plopped down my money and booked the DBJ family on the next shuttle to the nearest Mayan ruins.  Those ruins happened to be the coastal site of Tulum, perhaps the most significant oceanfront commercial point of entry into the pre-Spanish invasion Yucatan Peninsula.

Why not go inland to Chichen Itza, a site so massive and impressive that it's been labeled one of the New Seven Wonders of the World?  Why not trek into the jungle to explore the still-largely unexcavated ruins of Coba, which features the tallest pyramid (I think) in the Yucatan?  Two reasons: 1) It was close (meaning I wasn't going to blow an entire day of my vacation wandering through the wilderness), and 2) It was the cheapest trip.  I'm on a pilgrimage, sure, but that doesn't mean I'm not on a budget.

The Tulum tram - pulled by a farm tractor
(Photo courtesy of the Dark Blue Toddler.  Really.)
So we arrived at Tulum - me appropriately dressed in the only short-sleeved CBJ shirt that I owned - and I help Mrs. DBJ and the Dark Blue Toddler avoid the shop peddlers as we hop on the tram to get to the ruins.  Once we crossed through the walls to the city, I was a man possessed.  I wanted - no, needed - to understand what the Mayans were getting at and how it could make order out of the Blue Jackets' post-playoff implosion.  But what to do?  How to go about this search in this awesome and - in its own way - beautiful site?  The tour guides were busy spinning their own yarns about the Mayans (with one side suggesting that they were blood-thirsty maniacs out of Mel Gibson's "Apocalypto" and the others suggesting they were peaceful farmers, mathematicians and astronomers - strangely, with nothing in the middle).  I had no guidance.  It was time to dig deep.

One FUNNY book
On a trip to Arizona quite a few years back, Mrs. DBJ and I had the pleasure of stopping over in Sedona.  If you've ever been to Sedona, you know exactly what I'm talking about when I say it is drop-dead gorgeous.  The towering red rocks flowing southward from the Oak Creek Canyon present a landscape that literally takes your breath away...especially at sunset on a clear night.  I've never seen anything like it.

Neither, for that matter, did the strange, crystal-lugging hippies out of California, who cashed out their 401(k)'s, abandoned their overcrowded and smog-filled metropolises and moved east to Sedona.  They imparted their unique brand of mysticism into Sedona's surrounding hills by labeling them "vortexes," or places where one can achieve a harmonic convergence with themselves, nature and whatever fine herbs they were smoking.  In fact, hiking in Sedona was rather funny - our tour guide told us not to bother the meditative-chanting circles of vortex observers because, well, they were more scared of us than we were of them.  But I digress.

Back to Tulum.  I looked around at the grounds, saw all of these majestic temples to different Mayan gods, thought about those Fruits and Nuts in Sedona and figured, "What the heck.  Why not try?"  So I sat my oversized American butt down, crossed my legs, stretched my palms outward and...umm...hummed the Blue Jackets goal song.  You know, the same song that seemingly every other team in the league (outside of Chicago - UGH) and even an insurance company are using.

Whoa - Oh - Oh...Oh - Oh - Oh....
Hmph.  Nothing.  Nothing at all.  Well, nothing aside from the strange looks from the United Nations of tourists tromping around the grounds.

On the bright side, those folks had no idea what I was doing either.  So I picked myself up, dusted off my shorts and started walking around the site to look for signs, clues, inspiration.  Anything to help explain why the Blue Jackets cannot extricate themselves from The Suck.

Indigineous, pre-European merchants pulled their canoes up to the rocky beach opening and brought their spices, gems, foodstuffs and other assorted items to the Mayan people  It's an incredible thought to consider that a civilization that couldn't invent the wheel (or so I was told) figured out how to conduct commerce with other cultures deep into Central (and perhaps South) America.  This was a culture that understood the value of wheeling and dealing, something that CBJ management just can't quite bring themselves to do if they had their druthers.

Perhaps that was it, the Mayan capacity for commerce.  Genuinely shrewd operators - Roster Ninjas, if you will - could take the disparate pieces that fill the locker room, figure out what needs to stay/go and make the deals that improve the team not just on paper but on the ice and in the win column.  I ran down to the cove and looked to the sea.

Will the CBJ Savior come perhaps in trade?  Or will they be the one making the trades?  Do I see Craig Patrick?
Nope.  Nothing again.  Just a lot of sand, rocks and a rope protecting me from spawning sea turtles.

I walked from building to building, reading the displays and listening in on different guides' interpretations of what we were looking at.  Yet no answers were revealing themselves.  I tell you, it was more frustrating than watching Grant Clitsome get spun around on yet another Steve Mason softie.  I was getting nowhere fast, it was getting hot and the DBT was running out of water on a freaking hot, sunny day in the Mayan Riviera.

ARGH!  What does a guy need to do to find peace in this hell of an NHL season?
So I abandoned my quest. Back to the shuttle, back to home base.  No answers in sight.  Some good this whole Mayan thing was.



Part IV: ENLIGHTENMENT

I was tired.  I was hot.  I was frustrated.  And I wasn't any closer to finding answers than I was when I started my little quest.  So I tossed off my sweaty clothes, put on my beach gear and headed down to the sand for a little ocean breeze and a cold drink.

Ho-lee jeez.  Smoke 'em if you got 'em.
I walked past the convenience store, fully stocked with the finest cigars this American has ever seen.  It made me think - perhaps a sacrificial offering for Hockey Jobu involving an honest-to-God Cuban Cohiba, Habano or Montecristo might impart the wisdom for which I so so badly craved.  Heck, I could even toss in a bottle of some of the finest Tequila around for not much more.  But my resolve was weak.  The Mayans already had let me down, and Hockey Jobu probably wasn't going to be any better.  And really, what would that get me besides a headache, a hangover and a curious conversation with the property management?  So I trudged on, resigned that this crappy season had no answers.  Off to the beach.

And then I saw him.  Yes, him.


There he was, under a palapa, with a fruity drink at his side.  There was no mistaking what - or who - I saw.

I stood there, motionless, stunned and slack-jawed.  

He laughed.

And it wasn't even the All-Star break yet.
"What're you staring at?" he asked as he stared me down with his piercing red eyes.

"I...I...I...can't believe you're here!"

He laughed again.

"Why?" he responded as he leaned back into his chaise.  "What's going on up there right now?  The season's over, chump.  Start thinking about the draft and free agency.  Everything else is angst and window dressing, kiddo."

I tried my best to compose a coherent thought. "You...you can't be serious.  There's almost half a season left!  Shouldn't you be banging that silly drum or something right now?  Your team needs you. The fans need you!"

"What am I supposed to do - fire up a crowd that is more inclined to lynch someone than cheer at this point?  Forget that.  I've been down here for a week, and I gotta tell you, these drinks are awesome.  Cool and refreshing...really hits the spot on a sunny day."

Then his callous sneer melted away in the sub-tropical sun.  "Tell you what," he said.  "You obviously want to talk, and you're blocking my sun.  C'mon over and grab a seat.  Tell me what's on your mind.  Of course, you'll need to rub a little more lotion on my wings.  They're kinda thin and burn easily."

So that's what I did.  I settled down into the sand next to his chaise and told him about my hopes and aspirations for the Blue Jackets and the City of Columbus, my sorrows and pains since the single playoff appearance of 2009, my head-first dive into Mayan mysticism and my pilgrimage to Tulum in the drive to find answers to why this team imploded like they did after that promising season.  I don't think he was impressed.  In fact, I think he thought I was somewhat silly.  But he humored me.

"You really care, don't you?" he asked.

"Yeah," I replied.  "I really do."

"Well, then, here's some advice.  Just sit back, relax, and let the wind roll over you - just like the majority of the National Hockey League rolls over our team on most nights.  Then take a few deep breaths.  It'll get better.  Definitely not this season, probably not next season, either, but it will get better.  Either that, or I'll be banging that drum somewhere in Canada before you know it."

Was it what I wanted to hear?  Of course not.  However, I appreciated his candor and his honesty.  Somehow, having my worst fears validated by someone in the know made it feel better.  Our team was mired in The Suck, and he couldn't explain it any better than me.  In our own ways, we both were lost.

So we sat back and watched the tide come in.


Minutes turned to hours, and neither of us spoke a word as we grew more and more entranced with the sun, the waves and perhaps the fact that we were so far from home with nary a care in the world.  Especially about our dismal hockey team.

Yet despite this bliss, I just had to break the silence and ask one last question.

"Do you think Howson could be a robot from the future?"



If you will permit me, I'd like to offer my heartfelt appreciation to some incredible Columbus Blue Jackets fans whose work has graced the blog over the past 1,000 posts - Kirsi, Puckeye's Mom, Campbell, En4cer45 and Cody.  Special mention goes to the current band of bloggers that have raised this little corner of the Internet to a completely new level: Gallos, Greg and Alison.  And, of course, Rick is welcome to drop in an post any time he wants.  


This blog started as a way for me to share my love of the CBJ and keep my sanity as a first-time father.  It's clearly become much more than that, and I have all of my contributing friends to thank.


With all dues respect, however, no contributor comes close to you - the reader.  Your readership drives us to produce more and better.  Your feedback - here and elsewhere - keeps us honest and connects us to all of our friends out there.  Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU.  


Here's to another 1,000 posts!


Carry The Flag!

5 comments:

  1. there are alot of us out here who really do care, thanks for 1,000 posts of sharing

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  2. DBJ - You just know, in your heart of hearts, that on December 22, 2012, the CBJ will be sitting atop the Central Division, and the doggone world will end. I really can't believe it would happen any other way... ;-)

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  3. An epic piece, indeed! :) Congrats on all 1000 posts! :) Now if we can only find a tiny sombrero.... LOL

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  4. Close, but no cigar. Hahahahahaha! Just kidding, this is an instant DBJ classic.

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