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Archive for June, 2014

The Absurd Tale of Riz’s 2013-2014 Fantasy Hockey Season

Posted by finedaysunday on June 15, 2014

Pavelski

After a much-too-long absence, I was thrilled to return to writing last week here at FineDaySunday. It sort of sucks that it took such a heavy and serious topic to urge me to continue writing when I already find it so rewarding on its own, but the subject was not something I was content to let pass by without input. No matter the circumstances, I feel that old itch again. With that in mind, let’s lighten things up a bit this week with something that hasn’t been relevant in months: fantasy hockey!

This was my fourth year participating in a fantasy hockey league, and it’s always an emotional roller coaster. Close contests, humiliating blowouts, thrilling last-minute victories, utter heartbreak and, needless to say, endless chirping and bragging. All of that over a span of seven months. It all begins with the draft, and I know I’m not alone in saying that it’s the most exciting part of fantasy hockey. Every shrewd decision and daunting risk can (and probably will) define the course of your team’s season, and you are virtually guaranteed to look back on the draft with some combination of satisfaction and “what the hell was I thinking?” My results were a fairly even mix of the two extremes.

Entering the draft as one of ten participants, I had one basic strategy: defense. The way I saw it, there are so many star forwards and elite goaltenders in the NHL that everyone is going to end up drafting their share of them, even taking into account any possible “down” years or unfortunate injuries (it’s always the injuries that do you in…). However, there always seems to be a much smaller pool of reliable, point-producing defensemen available that it always seems best to grab them while they’re out there. The setup varies from one fantasy league to the next, but the foundation remains the same: points are what matters. Some of the best defensemen in the league might be indispensible assets to their team here in the real world, but if they aren’t contributing on the offensive side of the equation, it’s often worth spending those picks elsewhere. That’s what makes building a dependable lineup of defensemen so critical, and more than anything I was proud to have drafted, by a mile, the best stable of blueliners in my fantasy league:

Duncan Keith, Drew Doughty, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Brent Seabrook, James Wisniewski, and Ryan McDonagh. Torey Krug joined the ranks a few short weeks later via the free agent pool. All of them finished in the top 30 in scoring among defensemen in the league.

They came through huge for me this year, and without my draft approach I would very likely have finished at the bottom of the standings instead of, err, sixth place but hey let’s not fret over details.

So! I thought I’d take this extremely late opportunity to give props to a few of the names on my team.

Team MVP (Most Valuable Player) – Joe Pavelski: The man they call Little Joe finished with 79 points, good for 8th in the league in scoring (tied with Alex Ovechkin), and easily the best season of his career. He didn`t miss a single game, was consistent start to finish, and contributed significantly in secondary categories like plus-minus, penalty minutes, and powerplay points. He always seemed to be on the ice when it mattered most, and all over the scoresheet as a direct result. Need I say more? The guy was always my favourite Shark, and has always been an incredibly reliable source of offense, but he took it to another level this season. Bravo. Runner-up: Evgeni Malkin, Duncan Keith

Team LVP (Least Valuable Player) – Mike Richards / Milan Michalek / James Reimer: This was a very tough three-way split, because I hate to pile on any one of them, but there’s no escaping the fact that I didn’t get what I was (probably foolishly) hoping to get out of them. I have always been a fan of Richards, especially during his days in Philadelphia, and I guess I never fully internalized that he was always going to be more of a spare part after he was traded to a team as deep and ridiculously stacked as the LA Kings. They didn’t need to rely on him nearly as heavily as the Flyers had, and he spent so much time on the fourth line that I probably should have just faced facts and parted ways with him.

Michalek is tougher to defend because the Ottawa Senators as a whole were hot garbage this year. Their team defense was a mess, giving up more goals per game than all but three teams. The absolute nadir of their season had to be blowing a late three-goal lead to the Montreal Canadiens that all but ended their playoff hopes. Plus-minus might not be the most dependable stat for gauging a player’s worth, but Michalek’s -25 on the season was damn near the bottom of the league, never a good sign. He looked nothing like the player who put up 60 points two seasons ago, and in hindsight he may not have been fully recovered after missing so much time last year due to injury.

And then there’s Reimer. Look, I like the guy. I think he’s a good goalie. I love the way he celebrates wins. Every interview he’s ever given makes him seem like the nicest person in the universe. That cannot be easy to do when you’re the Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender and everyone in the city will run you down for not bringing them the Stanley Cup. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy, let alone someone as likable as Reimer. That being said, drafting him was always going to be a gamble, as the Leafs had traded for Jonathan Bernier that off-season and the two were expected to compete for the starting job. Reimer was never able to gain any traction as Bernier ultimately won out, and what little action Reimer did see became a circus late in the season. It was brutal to watch. The Leafs’ epic tumble out of playoff contention was a team effort, but this is hockey, where the goalie is going to get the blame, fair or otherwise. Dropping him from my team and freeing up that roster spot for, well, just about anyone else was the smart play. Sorry, James. I hope you go to a city that appreciates you next year.

Biggest Steal – Ryan McDonagh: My sixth defenseman. The guy I drafted all the way in the 16th round. He embodied everything about my draft strategy. I may have gotten lucky to be able to draft so many superstar defensemen early, but I was not expecting McDonagh to still be available as late as he was. He was always supremely talented, certainly, but this was his big breakout season. 43 points in 77 games, by far the biggest offensive contribution from the New York Rangers’ blue line. An absolute stud of a first-pairing defenseman right in the prime of his career, with impressive stats across the board. Outstanding. Runner-up: Oliver Ekman-Larsson, T.J. Oshie

Most Mildly Disappointing Bust That Ultimately Didn’t Mean That Much – Filip Forsberg: One of my very last picks, Forsberg was by far the most highly touted prospect in the Washington Capitals’ system, until they decided to trade him to the Nashville Predators for a bag of pucks in some absurd attempt to load up for a long playoff run. He was expected to make his debut for the Preds this season, and I took a chance on him in the hopes of making him my sneaky dark horse pick. Alas, these are the Nashville Predators, not exactly a goal-scoring dynamo of an organization. 13 games, five points, and a nagging minor injury later, I quietly dropped Forsberg and hoped no one would notice.

Most Crucial Mid-Season Trade That Sort of Helped For a While There But Who Am I Kidding I Got Fleeced – Taylor Hall for Marian Gaborik and Ben Scrivens: I was in a curious spot in mid-November: dominating the weaker of the two divisions in my league by a significant margin, but I had just lost Jonathan Quick to an injury and he wasn’t going to be back for several weeks or more. One of the major players in the opposite division offered me Scrivens, Quick’s red-hot backup, and a then-injured Gaborik. In exchange: Taylor Hall. I had just placed Hall on the trading block, thanks to his God-awful month-and-a-half to start the season. I had drafted Hall in the second round with all of the expectations that come with such a high pick, and yet he and the eternally struggling Edmonton Oilers were inexplicably getting worse.

So I accepted the offer. Scrivens tore up the goaltender battles for an incredible stretch of time, increasing my hold on the division title. I really needed it too, because as I said before, Reimer was getting fewer and fewer opportunities to start games for Toronto. My only other option was Mike Smith and, though he fared well for a while, I would not have done much winning had I relied on him alone. Plus I had Gaborik waiting in the wings for a couple more weeks. Things were looking up.

Then stuff happened. The Kings began giving Martin Jones some starts in net, and he decided to just stop allowing pucks into the LA net ever again. Scrivens never got another honest shot at the job and was eventually traded to the Oilers when Quick came back. That’s right, I took on Jonathan Quick’s backup to shore up my goaltending needs, only to have that backfire thanks to Quick’s backup’s backup. Because hockey. And then Gaborik returned for the Columbus Blue Jackets… and broke his collarbone on his very first shift. Because hockey. Then after a long time on injured reserve, he was dealt to the Kings at the trade deadline and would go on to score thousands of goals in the playoffs. Because hockey. Then Hall bounced back (even if no one else in Edmonton really did), and would finish the season sixth in league scoring with 80 points. Because hockey. I would eventually just barely let the division title slip away in the final weeks and flame out in the playoffs, all because I sacrificed long-term success for a shot at going for it all this season. Welp. That’s the way it goes sometimes. But feel free to laugh at my foolishness all the same.

So that’s more or less the story of my fantasy hockey season. We started a keeper league this year, meaning we are permitted to keep (I believe) five players from our roster while the rest get tossed back into the draft pool for next season. I finished sixth overall, meaning I should get the fifth overall selection. I like my odds! Thank you for reading my meandering hockey thoughts.

“I aim to misbehave.”

Reimer

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Men’s Rights Activists: The hate group society allows

Posted by finedaysunday on June 8, 2014

“Won’t someone please think of the white man?”

That doesn’t sound like an actual question that a well-adjusted person living in the 21st century would ask, is it? Even though the world we live in is far from perfect, we can all generally agree that white guys have got it pretty good, right?

Sadly, not all of us can agree on that, as it turns out. There exists a well-organized group of men (and I hesitate to call them that when “boys” would be closer to the truth) so deluded that they have actually convinced themselves that men in our society have been given the short end of the stick in the grand scheme of things. Men’s Rights Activists, or MRAs, as they call themselves, are defined by their fear and dislike of women. They blame women for anything and everything from their crippling personality flaws to their sexual inadequacies, and seek to “take the power back”, as if all the power in the world was ever anywhere but in the hands of men. That question up there that I opened with? That is more or less their mantra. The expanded version reads as follows:

“Won’t someone, please, feel genuine stirring sympathy for the plight of the poor, put-upon white cis-gendered first world man? But not the gay ones.”

Every last one of these people is utterly and staggeringly full of shit.

Quick clarification: Yes, obviously I’m aware that there are identifiable facets of society which are problematic for men. Custody battles come to mind. A more broad and troubling one is the insidious and poisonous macho culture so deeply drilled into our consciousness. “Suck it up!” “Be a man!” “Don’t be a pussy!” “Man up!” “Stop your crying or I’ll come in there and give you something to cry about!” It’s a culture that demands that boys bottle everything up and never show any emotion until they lash out violently against others or themselves. That is a genuine problem affecting men and one that needs to be addressed.

None of that is of any interest to self-proclaimed MRAs. Their list of concerns begins and ends with “Why won’t this bitch sleep with me?” That is why they deserve exactly none of your sympathy.

Idiot

Snapshot_20140609

* * *

A week after Elliot Rodger went on a murderous rampage in Isla Vista, California, taking the lives of six people before finally killing himself, the world is still reeling in the wake of this tragedy. Among the debates about gun control and mental illness (neither of which are the primary focus of this piece but are irrevocably linked to it) is the subject of the killer’s motive. Rodger had been active on social media, posting several videos in which he talks almost exclusively about his sexual frustration and loneliness, claiming that, at the age of 22, he had still never so much as kissed a girl. Before he carried out these murders, he released a typed manifesto to the public, in which he detailed virtually his entire life, with the bulk of it emphasizing his anger and hatred toward women. He describes his adamant belief that he, the “superior gentleman”, had been denied sex all his life, and that women, whose attention and devotion he felt he was entitled to, were to blame for his feelings of rejection. He was furious that “obnoxious brutes” were the ones enjoying the company of women instead of him. He was lonely and isolated. He was filled with violence and hate. He wrote over 100,000 words, every bit of it teeming with misogynistic rage and resentment. For the record, no, I did not read the entire thing. I spent approximately half an hour reading through several chunks of it until I couldn’t stomach any more. I also watched two of his videos, one of which he posted the night before his attacks, in which he explains in great detail exactly what he planned to do the next day.

The revelation of the warped views that drove Rodger to murder sparked a worldwide discussion on the global, cultural, and (most terrifyingly) normalised sexism and misogyny inherent to our society. While some warned of the danger in oversimplifying his motive, to the degree that “you’re taking a tragedy and turning it into a sexism debate” became an actual thing that people said, there is absolutely no getting around the fact that Elliot Rodger hated women to a murderous extent. Over and over he stated, in no uncertain terms, that he was going to take his revenge on all women for rejecting him all his life and giving their attentions to other men instead of him. That is your link. That is the reason we are having this discussion. No one is turning (or, God help me, “derailing”) this into a debate about sexism. It is irrefutably about sexism and violence against women all on its own. Period. Moving on.

Quick aside: Regarding those voices in the above paragraph who want to shout down your desire to discuss issues like this through a certain lens, be on the lookout for their use of the word “agenda.” Any time you speak with conviction on any given topic instead of remaining (barf) neutral, some unimpressive nobody will eventually surface to accuse you of “pushing your agenda.” It’s an ineffective and needless word used like a sledgehammer by people without the courage to take a stand and speak in a meaningful way.

In the aftermath of this senseless horror, it came to light that Rodger was an active member of an online community of Men’s Rights Activists. Its members described themselves as “incel”, shorthand for “involuntarily celibate” which is exactly what it sounds like. It serves as an example of the extremes to which MRAs will go to blame women for their troubles without ever bothering to try to understand that maybe they’re not the victims they claim to be. That maybe the reason they feel so frustrated and rejected isn’t because “all women are bitches.” That maybe their problems are theirs alone. Anything to avoid having to claim even a modicum of responsibility for your failures and shortcomings, right guys?

None of this is to say that MRAs are directly to blame for Rodger’s actions. They were, however, his most prominent social circle (and, if his manifesto is to be believed, probably his only one). Here he found a widespread and welcoming community of like-minded people with a similarly limited view of the world. He probably felt relieved, overjoyed even, to find that other poor souls suffered from the same “affliction” that he did, the same so-called involuntary celibacy. He ate up what they were feeding him and internalised it, reinforcing the beliefs he had already held for years, and later repeated their hateful rhetoric in his videos and his writing.

Those beliefs, incidentally, are all too common. Sure, we’ve all felt lonely or rejected or longing for companionship and intimacy at some point in our lives. It’s a crappy and relatable feeling. But what I’m referring to specifically is the widely held belief that sex is something that a woman gives and a man takes, and that she had better give it willingly because he is entitled to take it. It’s an ugly aspect of our culture, and nowhere is it expressed more clearly or resolutely than in the vile hate speech of the Men’s Rights Movement. These aren’t just the mad keyboard-mashing antics of mindless troglodytes. These people are lucid, focused, organized, and 100% committed to their fabricated cause. That’s what makes them so completely disgusting. This is not just a couple of forum trolls or “boys being boys”, and continuing to casually dismiss them as such is tantamount to endorsing their hateful views and actions. Ignoring a problem and hoping it goes away only makes it worse. So it’s time to start acknowledging them as such.

“But not all men are like that!”

I was just going to address that. See, whenever a woman is harassed or abused at the hands of a man, upon sharing her experience with others, one of the listeners is often suspiciously quick to jump in to say “not all men behave that way”, or something to that effect. Seriously, listen for it the next time you’re in a group setting. “Not all men” is such an automatic response to everyday instances of sexism, largely put forth by men, that what often gets overlooked is that is an entirely meaningless statement. Rather than being willing to listen to a woman’s very valid concerns, a man will pull out the “not all men” reply as a way of distancing himself (as well as the other men in his social circle) from the situation, a defensive response meant to tell the woman not to paint all men with the same brush. And just like that, through some self-professed verbal jiu-jitsu, he gets to assure himself “got nothing to do with me” and absolve himself of involvement instead of making any attempt to be helpful or empathetic.

Now, just to be clear, I’m not saying that everyone who goes straight for the “not all men” response is automatically a misogynist (to put it more confusingly, not all men use “not all men” that way… you follow me?). The sentiment behind it is well-intended. It’s just that “not all men” is such a redundant and unhelpful thing to say to someone, you know? It’s so… empty. It’s what you say when you have nothing to contribute. Of course all men don’t harass women. We know that already. It’s so obvious that no one need ever point it out, especially not in some grand “case closed, let’s stop talking about this now please” attempt at finality.

So, how is this all connected? What specifically do we need to take away from Elliot Rodger’s hate-fueled murder spree and how does it relate to the casual misogyny and normalised violence directed at women going forward?

How about the fact that even now, people are blaming women for what he did?

Fuckwits

How about the fact that people are holding him up as a hero?

Loser

How about the fact that these people are not a few scattered outliers, but in fact represent a large and well-organized hivemind of hate?

Would that strike you as acceptable? Is that something that you just shrug your shoulders at and go “oh well what can you do?” Is that still just a couple of harmless guys having fun on the internet?

These are real human beings. They are not anonymous cyphers oozing out of some Reddit sub-forum. These are the people who hold these beliefs, who always have and always will endorse and encourage violence and intimidation of women for as long as we allow them to do so. And there are far, far too many of them. We can sit here and split hairs all day long about which ones are Men’s Rights Activists and which are Pickup Artists and which are involuntarily celibate and none of it would matter. Misogynists are misogynists. They all share the same DNA: a deep-seated fear, mistrust, and dislike of women, and adherence to a set of principles that dehumanises women, viewing women as obstacles standing between them and sex. Obstacles they want to remove. They are open and boastful about all of this, and we as a society continue to allow them to exist because we ignore them. Because we say “why are we even talking about this?” Because we shake our heads and go “man, what a bunch of losers but oh well what are we gonna do about ’em” and forget about it after a day or two.

Elliot Rodger was narcissistic, spoiled, hateful, entitled, misguided, diseased, violent, malicious, antisocial, and misogynistic. He refused any and all attempts to help him. He was a racist piece of shit. Despite being brought up in such a privileged lifestyle most people can only dream of, despite having every advantage you could ask for, he was consumed by his deluded belief that he deserved more and that he was being denied what he saw as rightfully his. His attitudes toward women were horrible, and yet they are undeniably common, especially in young men and boys who don’t know any better. Would he have eventually grown out of it? We’ll obviously never know. A lot of people are immature as teenagers or young adults, and after they grow up they often look back on their old beliefs and feel more than a little embarrassed, maybe even ashamed. Too many of them don’t, sadly. Too many of them never move past that underdeveloped stage in their lives and go right on through their adult lives hating women and feminism and everything else they want to blame for their own sexual failings. Too many of them willingly and enthusiastically associate themselves with a campaign of terror and hate, with a failed human being who wrote about his desire to put women into concentration camps. Too many of them find the Men’s Rights Activists.

What can we do about it? We can shame people in our own daily lives when we see and hear it happening. We can speak up and call it out instead of being too timid to make a scene. We can listen to the stories women tell us instead of interrupting to accuse her of generalising. We can raise our children to treat women with respect and to understand that nothing worth having in life comes easy, and that the world does not owe them any favours. We can broaden our childrens’ views by showing them how blessed they are to have so many opportunities available to them, and that too many others are never given a chance. We can teach them to treat women with the same courtesy they would show anyone else, and that when you are a kind and compassionate person, you’ll find that good people will want to be around you and share their lives with you. There can’t be any greater feeling than that.

As for you, MRAs:

Haha 2

That is you. That is you at your mildest. You need to stop doing what you’re doing and gain some perspective on life. You need to adapt to the 21st century. You think you feel lonely and isolated now? Just imagine how you’ll feel when those of us in the modern world leave you even further behind than you already are. You fancy yourselves bookish and “enlightened”, yet you honestly think feminism and progressivism and inclusivity are all part of some global conspiracy to eradicate men from the face of the Earth. That really doesn’t say much for your ability to have a rational discussion with me or anyone else. That is why you deserve every bit of scorn and mockery that comes your way. It’s not just because of your fedoras and your unshaven necks (as fun as it is to point them out). I am sick and effing tired of you cowards claiming to be the “true” pinnacle of masculinity, only to shrink away and act like victims when faced with so much as a hint of criticism. It takes away what little legitimacy your non-existent crusade actually has when you don’t even have the courage of your own convictions. I’m both a realist and an optimist, and the fact is there will come a time when it will be appropriate to give you boys a dismissive, half-hearted shrug, and that will be when we look back on stories of you and think, “Man, these guys that used to think they stood for men’s rights… they really used to be a thing, didn’t they?”

Do you want to know the real reason I know we will eventually leave you behind? The real reason I know you will eventually be cast aside like the victims you love to think you are? Because there are these concepts called equality and fairness. To us, that means treating other human beings with respect and decency, regardless of gender, race, or orientation. To you, it means “but what’s Chris Brown’s side of the story?”

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