I made a grievous mistake in judgment this week, and it adversely impacted OFB on perhaps this site’s most important day of existence. We worked closely and well with the Capitals’ media staff to try and position ourselves to continue to bring you the feeling of hockey as we feel it from within Verizon Center, but you may have heard: the Capitals this week fielded upwards of 250 requests for press credentials for Friday night. Contrast that with what Tarik yesterday reported being the coverage corps for a Caps’ game around Thanksgiving: about a dozen. In a media environment far less fashionable than Friday night’s, two of us from OFB get credentialed so that we can deliver both words and images/video here, but at week’s start, sensing a very changed hockey culture here, I informed my OFB colleagues that we might be lucky to get just one of us in the Verizon Center press box for Game 1. Turns out, even that forecast was optimistic.
To accommodate so massive a media surge, the Capitals communicated to us their need to create an overflow area for working press — in the media lounge, downstairs, well away from the madness. That may have made for a quieter work environment, but I wanted to work in the madness. Sensing an arrival of a frozen Red Sea perhaps even louder than last week, and wanting to see how red it would be with Philly in town, I wanted to survey and savor it and share my sensory experience with you.
But I also confronted a former daily-journalist-turned-blogger’s dilemma: the men and women who make a living at covering pro sports have an obvious claim to priority access that I don’t. Mr. Leonsis in his new media age vision may not agree, but I made the decision that under such extraordinary access demand burdens, and having been accommodated for two years so uniformly magnificently by the Capitals, I wanted nothing of being headache no. 251 for the club. I could watch the game from home, and blog like others. I rationalized my decision partly on this half-truth of a premise: to the extent that I viewed myself (wrongly) as being shouldered aside by professional old media, that very condition was emblematic of the coverage success I’d sought for the game I cherish in my hometown.
At 6:15 last night, shopping for my playoff game beer and pizza out in the suburbs, believing myself able to transition back to simple, traditional hockey fan with the snap of fingers away from a keyboard, I realized the seriousness of my mistaken judgment. I felt a profound ache at being away from the action, away from working at chronicling it, and it felt awful. Even beer on sale offered no salve.
I should have shoehorned myself into that rink last night, even if I had to try and blog from underneath Abe Pollin’s desk. Rather than adopt the view that this new love affair the press is having with hockey could be an impediment to my coverage calling, I should have embraced it as a fresh challenge. I made a huge mistake. This morning, I owe our readers an apology. At least the good guys got it done!
Initially I lessened my early evening ache a bit by maintaining contact with some friends in the press box via instant message. But then my diminished ache turned to anger. I learned that Friday night’s Washington Post delegation — understandably enlarged — was pork barreled in the press box’s front row with the names of Kornheiser and Wilbon. If I ever get to own a pro hockey team they won’t be allowed in my rink — Friday night was a red-tie party for HockeyWashington, and the two of them have amply demonstrated over years not only disinterest in attending such soir?É¬©es but ridiculing those who do.
My anger wasn’t directed at their hopping on the hockey media bandwagon — it was that after securing so sought after a set of seats . . . they failed to show up to work the friggin game! Kornheiser may have been cavorting about a luxury box, but he certainly wasn’t working upstairs. His workspace space preserved. Ditto for his partner in the superficial, syntax-challenged, and loud. This is a family blog, and the words I associate with this act of unfathomable arrogance won’t appear here. Maybe they could title their next ESPN podcast, ‘Pardon the Absence.’
Enough about hockey-hating egomaniacs and back-room media matters.
Friday night delivered not just a pulsating, emotionally draining victory over a gritty and skilled opponent but perhaps just as importantly it obliterated any residual concern about the viability of Washington being hockey friendly when it really mattered. A Hockeytown under construction may have a completion date that may have to be bumped up.
The Comcast broadcast went live at 7:00 last night, and at 7:00:30 it was abundantly apparent that the orange-and-blackouts of the past were lodged right there, in history. I don’t quite understand how the Capitals’ sales department managed to make it so pervasively red last night.
But I have Friday night beer leftover for them.