Let's talk about Game of Thrones. I love the show. The only thing is I still can't remember everyone's name. Sure, I know Robb Stark and Joffrey, but half the episode someone pops up on screen I'll say something like "Oh, it's that's guy! I love that guy!" I don't think this is a problem, and I bet a lot of the non-book-readers out there agree.
— Daniel B.
File this one under "questions that were written prior to this past Sunday night." (All the Game of Thrones–related questions written on or after this past Sunday night much more closely resembled Hodor hodoring.)
But to your question, I completely agree — I happily watched the entire premiere this season, then went and read a recap online and realized I had zero idea who they were talking about for entire swaths of text. The second week I found myself explaining a scene with a sentence like "so then the one group of guys in the woods gives that one dude to the other group and I'm not sure if they're all the same band or enemies but I think maybe both? Either way, I really like the one guy with the beard. No, not him, the one who he stabbed."
Then the third week I tried a tip from a friend of mine — to turn on closed captioning during the show — and it was honestly life-changing, albeit totally dorky. It's great not even just for learning characters' names, but for keeping straight where they are or where they're going. I highly recommend it. The other night, it was all:
[castle doors click shut.]
['Rains of Castamere' begins to play.]
Anyway, SPOILER ALERT, but can I just say that while I found the Red Wedding to be unbelievably startling and crazy and that my own reaction shots rivaled the ones you can find floating around, I don't get the people who are all heartbroken and "I'm never watching again!" about this. Robb Stark? Kinda dull! His lady? Sorry, zzzz. I haven't read the books (clearly) and I'm sure things might be different if I had, but I'm gonna come down as pro–Red Wedding, because it sets up scenes I can't wait to see — will Joffrey taunt Sansa? How will Littlefinger react? — and because it feels like it's finally propelling things forward.
I knew something awful was going to happen based on tweets from friends, but when I thought about what on the show would upset me, the only thing I really came up with was Tyrion getting whacked, so anything else I could deal with. Everyone else, like Walder Frey's poor wife, is pretty much expendable. "I'll find another." Although, George R.R. Martin, if you kill another direwolf, I'm going to see to it that your nights are dark and full of terrors. Heartless bastard. Can someone please update this site?
What stage of grief are you in over the John Tortorella firing?
— Evan M.
I was clearly already in denial when I wrote this column, because I thought he'd at least get a crack at the start of next season. (The "Just let him have two months to prove himself! How about one month? Please?" logic must have been the bargaining phase.)
In the last two years the Rangers signed Brad Richards to a mondo free-agent contract; made it to the Eastern Conference finals after a regular season in which Tortorella was a finalist for Coach of the Year; pulled off a depth-depleting trade for Rick Nash; pulled off a depth-replenishing trade for Marian Gaborik less than a year later; made the playoffs in a lockout-shortened season, and defeated the no. 3 seed before losing to the no. 4 in a series that went to overtime twice.
This isn't to say there weren't problems, and many of them. The Rangers had been expected to be one of those top seeds at the start of the season, for starters. The power play was awful. The press conferences were getting testier than usual. Players seemed off. It was a little reminiscent of the situation with another MSG head coach, Mike D'Antoni, who dealt with a lockout and a trade-ravaged team before finally resigning when things just didn't work out.
You wonder if Glen Sather thought at all about D'Antoni when making the decision, or if Jim Dolan saw fit to remind him. Maybe they knew that these things are like food or relationships: Usually when things start to taste rotten, they've already passed their expiration date. "Every coach has a shelf life," Sather said in an otherwise cryptic press conference; as GM he seems to remain non-perishable. Maybe, with some intriguing coaching candidates available in guys like Alain Vigneault or, potentially, Dave Tippett, they wanted to act fast. (Or maybe, gulp, they're going with Messier and going with God.)
So, I guess all this means I've reached acceptance? There's plenty I loved about Tortorella, probably because I wasn't someone who had to deal with his shit day-in and day-out. There's also, though, the fact that when I think about the Rangers throughout Tortorella's four-year stint, the two constants were that Lundqvist always put them in a position to win, and that they frequently couldn't even muster, like, two goals to actually do so. At some point, we all move on. I just didn't expect that in the end John Tortorella would coach fewer Rangers games than Tom Renney.
Here, let me conclude this memorial service by pulling out the rickety church tape deck and pressing play.
I have always enjoyed your "Wedded Blitz" column and stumbled onto an idea for a related feature about the equally lurid tales of the home lives of the rich and not-necessarily-famous. This occurred to me after reading a particularly awesome/awful profile of … well, this paragraph sums it up:
"Colman, 44, and her husband, Richard, 52, a partner in Well Oiled Wine Co., a Leesburg wine importer, son Kane, 12, and daughter Elizabeth, 7, moved to Georgetown from Waterford in 2011. They loved country life. But when Kane was accepted to the McLean School in Potomac, they knew they had to move closer to the school."
It's got it all: the names, the wine importing, the moving from horse country to Georgetown, the snooty private school, Colman's studied insouciance on display in her photo, referring to their 1,700 square foot home as "tiny," and this: "I love my balcony because I can look out and watch when my mom is having a party," Elizabeth says.
— David V.
This brings up two great points. One, interior design is kind of the logical extension of wedding planning; the chip in your brain that has an opinion on thermographic invitations versus letterpress is the same one that makes grave input like "well, I don't see how we want anything less than the quartz composite." And two, the Washington Post is such a treasure trove of society goodness and it always gets overlooked in favor of the "Styles" section of the New York Times.
But in many ways it's even better. While you always get the sense that the Times is onto itself — that it's winking at you, elbowing you, hustling you, letting you know that it knows that you know that it knows — the Post is almost daffy, possessing the kind of earnest cluelessness that comes with idle and outsize power. The Times has Alex Kuczynski; the Washington Post has Sally Quinn. The whole thing is a microcosm of the differences between New York and D.C.
Which do you think is a bigger 'What If' — What if David Stern hadn't vetoed the Chris Paul to the Lakers trade — OR — What if Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears had never broken up?
I think both alternate universes (the NBA and popular music) would look drastically different today but I'm not sure that either scenario results in a more interesting or demonstrably better world.
— Gabe B.
Wow. This is some Philip Roth–level alterna-history ish. I'm actually getting migraines from the Monte Carlo simulations iterating inside my brain. (It feels like the winning screen in Solitaire in there.) Here, in roughly ascending order of mindblowingness, are some glimpses into how the world would be.
7. College girls at the clurrrb would no longer be able to growl-scream "Ooooh, the damage is done so I guess I be leavin' " while making embarrassing hand gestures. In other words, the bulk of my social life from 2002 to 2004 would have been erased.
6. The world would not know the languorous Cheshire cat that is Kevin Federline. I'm actually sometimes more upset over the Britney–K-Fed breakup, because can you imagine what they might have become had they stayed together? There's a very real chance we could have had ourselves the Tony and Carmela Soprano of the Valley, tracksuits and all.
3. Lakers coach Mike Brown might not have been fired, which means that Mike D'Antoni might not have been hired, which means that Phil Jackson might not have felt snubbed, which means that Phil Jackson might not have decided to join Twitter to further the legend of Phil Jackson by tweeting John McPhee book recommendations at @CannabisHistory.
2. Kobe Bryant would remain unaffected, because Kobe Bryant, like Dr. Manhattan, is impervious to the usual metaphysical quantum rhythms of the world. (How has he not written a self-proclaimed #bluewang hashtag to go along with #mambatweets and #vino by now?)
1. THE MOVIE COUNTRY STRONG WOULD NOT EXIST. That answers your question right there.
I'm having trouble agreeing with the award nominations this year, mainly King Henrik and Tavares in their respective categories. For example, how do you give a Hart nomination to a guy who was 17th in scoring and had a -2? The Chicago fan in me wants to say why not Toews or Kane, but I'll even say Datsyuk or Getzlaf deserve it too. And my main beef with Henrik is that I think he is overrated — am I the only one? I'm sorry, but I just don't see a 2.05 as award-worthy. They (essentially) just picked the goalies with the most starts and wins …
— Katie P.
This year for the first time I was given a ballot for NHL Awards voting, and the experience made some of the annual quirks of the process a little bit more understandable to me. For starters, not all of the awards are determined by the same group. Members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association vote on the Hart (MVP), Selke (best defensive forward), Norris (best defenseman), Lady Byng (sportsmanship), Calder (best rookie), and Masterton (perseverance) as well as select the All-Star and All-Rookie teams. The Vezina (best goalie) is voted upon by general managers, however, while the Jack Adams (best coach) is determined by the broadcasters.
On a ballot, voters are asked to list their top five for each award in order. The votes and rankings are added and the three finalists are named. (It's just for show; no further vote is taken.) For the Hart Trophy, the three finalists were Sidney Crosby, John Tavares, and Alex Ovechkin. My selections were as follows:
- Sidney Crosby
- Alex Ovechkin
- John Tavares
- Sergei Bobrovsky
- Jonathan Toews
Every year we get the same old debate regarding the Hart Trophy and the definition of "most valuable." Some think it should mean the best player in a vacuum, others think context matters. Some apply the "what would happen to the team if you take him away" test, others don't think a fantastic player should be considered any less valuable just because he's surrounded by other great talent. (This doesn't just happen in hockey, as Zach Lowe pointed out.) Some joke that the list should probably comprise only goalies; others think there's a Vezina Trophy for those weirdos and the Hart should be saved for the skaters.
Everyone has their methods of voting. Mine is that I kind of believe everything is a bit of a factor, that there's no one stat or numerical cutoff or team win percentage or eyeball test or even definition of the word "valuable" that flips a switch either way. Instead, I give a little bit of weight to a lot of things. (Honestly, it's not unlike the NUPTIALS system in that way.) I think there's value to being able to look at a ballot and have it give you a snapshot of what was going on in hockey that year.
Tavares may not have checked the "Top 10 in overall scoring" box, but he was the young captain, top scorer, and clear leader on a New York Islanders team that was one of the surprises of the season. (He was also third in the league in goals.) That he finished the season with a plus/minus of minus-2 doesn't tell us much; that he was the top forward on his team in on-ice shot differential paints a better picture. Are there omissions above? Of course. Could Pavel Datsyuk make this list? Sure. Did Ryan Getzlaf fall victim to East Coast bias? Probably, although I live in the Pacific time zone myself. Did Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews likely suffer from splitting the vote? Probably.
As for Lundqvist, I don't vote on the Hart although I did list him between Sergei Bobrovsky and Tuukka Rask on my All-Star Team lineup. (I oscillated between Rask and Antti Niemi about 30 times, for what it's worth; the three finalists ended up being Niemi, Lundqvist, and Bobrovsky.) And while I think you're right that Lundqvist gets the benefit of the doubt even when he's not playing as well as advertised — and there's no question he didn't have his best regular season, particularly early on — I think there are a few reasons he wound up a finalist.
For starters, when in doubt GMs are going to vote by thinking to themselves, Which goalie would I want on my team? Lundqvist passes that test for numerous reasons, and is probably almost an automatic write-in on ballots. Then there's the fact that, like Alex Ovechkin, he had a much better second half to the season, which is more likely to influence voters. I know I'm guilty of that.
Finally, there's the fact that GAA isn't really the best way to compare goalies; it's really more of a team stat and not goalie-specific. (It's similar to judging a goalie on wins without any other context.) The best apples-to-apples way to see how goalies measure up while removing a lot of the noise from the equation is to compare their save percentage at even strength. And if you do that (and remove goalies who have played fewer than five games), Lundqvist is tied with Jimmy Howard for fifth in the league. If you limit the sample to goalies who were in net for 30 or more games this season, he and Howard are third behind Bobrovsky and Tuukka Rask. And if you make the cutoff 40 or more games, Lundqvist and Howard rise to the top.
What is it going to take to get you back to the City, where you belong? I mean 3 NHL teams within public transportation, and 9 others an hour flight away at most. Much closer to Eli, Joe Biden and Ingalls Rink. Sunday dinners with the Bakers. A train ride away from the Worldwide leader, drinks with Stephen A. lamenting about the Knicks, and perhaps most appealing a possible weekly spot on Mad Dog Unleashed!!
— Tony Z.
A lovely thought, but I was just on the East Coast for a wedding last weekend and it was 95 degrees and humid and when I got back to San Francisco I basically turned into a dog: head out the window, slobbering happily and thankfully into the cool breeze. I may never go back. Don't try to tell me what Mark Twain said, because he didn't even say it.
How could you field a college hockey question with comparisons to the best basketball schools and not include the University of Michigan? They have the most Frozen Fours, most NCAA titles and had a consecutive tournament streak (that sadly ended this year) almost as impressive as the Red Wings. Can we at least be UCLA?
— Tim S.
There were a lot of e-mails from Michigan fans after the last Bake Shop. These Michiganders are a proud people. UCLA it is!
Despite the 22 (and counting) season playoff streak for the Red Wings, and the 22 season NCAA tournament streak for the Wolverines that just ended, and an intense rivalry at the collegiate level between Michigan and MSU — your boy Brody didn't even mention the state of Michigan when it came to college hockey. What gives?
Michigan's hockey culture is every bit as pervasive as New England's or Minnesota's. I mean, just because we have success in basketball, football, softball and (sometimes) baseball doesn't mean our love and success of hockey should be ignored. GIVE THE GREAT LAKES STATE SOME LOVE!
— Vasav S.
OK, now the Michiganders are just getting cocky.
It was typical of a Wisconsin fan to not even mention Michigan in the discussion on college hockey. Most national titles in NCAA men's hockey history!
That's all I have to say.
— Dustin K.
Michiganders may have an inferiority complex that somehow rivals North Dakota's. JUST KIDDING JUST KIDDING (runs away in a zigzag manner while ducking) I LOVE T.J. OSHIE AND JOHN GIBSON HAS NO SOUL AND LAKE LEELANAU IS LOVELY IN THE SUMMERS.
1. We need a gratuitous picture of Stan.
2. How do you see the first full offseason of the new CBA working out? Teams like Boston will have to trim to get down. I think Jeremy Jacobs was hoping for a rollback on salaries so he could keep the team that Chiarelli had built together, but that doesn't look possible. I have to think that one of Krejci or Horton is moved, and I just have no idea how that will go down.
— Geof M.
1. Ask and ye shall receive! I call this one "The A-Rod."
2. I'm honestly afraid to write anything related to the Bruins after how embarassingly wrong I've been about them lately. They've sent Pittsburgh into full-on meltdown mode. I tuned in to 93.7 THE FAN Monday night after the Bruins' 6-1 (!) win just in time to hear caller Breadman in Penn Hills say that the "power play stinks, number one. Number two, that team looks like they have amoebic dysentary. Like they all have diarrhea."
As he ranted, I wondered whether he got that from the scene in Mrs. Doubtfire. Then I started listening again to what he was saying.
"Crosby, he wears a C, it doesn't stand for captain," Breadman said. "It stands for CHOOCH."
Anyway, in general, I can't wait for this offseason, which has a hard salary cap of $64.3 million that will reset to a floating, revenue-driven level the following year. I'd expect a few compliance buyouts this summer — Brad Richards is a potential target, as are guys like Marian Hossa, Rick DiPietro, and Vincent Lecavalier — and plenty of contract maneuvering.
Take Boston, your example. They've currently got about $60 million tied up in cap payroll for next season. Nathan Horton is a free agent, as are Jaromir Jagr and defenseman Andrew Ference (among a few others). Given the year Horton's having, he'll be due for a raise from someone. Goalie Tuukka Rask is a restricted free agent, while promising backup Anton Khudobin will be unsigned as well. Do the Bruins let Horton walk? Or sign him and try to trade Krejci (or Milan Lucic) for a good return? What about Patrice Bergeron, who is a UFA after next year?
This would all be something Pens fans could find small solace in, but the joke's on them too. They'll have about $8 million in cap space and a slew of UFAs ranging from rentals Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow, and Douglas Murray to stock-rising workhorses like Pascal Dupuis. Evgeni Malkin will be a free agent after next season, as will Chris Kunitz, Jussi Jokinen, and basically every defenseman on the roster other than Paul Martin. Starting this summer, a lot of teams are in for a wild ride.
While there is no doubt that Elizabeth Jennings was rooting for the Soviets, do you think Phillip was rooting for the Americans in the Miracle on Ice game in 1980?
— Daniel K.
I could see Phillip respecting Herb Brooks's style. He certainly seemed to model most of his go-to wigs after the guy. Elizabeth probably gives Vladislav Tretiak the cold shoulder to this day.
I just looked up "I Wanna Sex You Up" on YouTube, and I have no idea how Color Me Badd did not have a sustained career.
— Knowles A.
Color Me Badd lives on in our hearts, and in Rembert Explains the '90s. (And actually, according to Wikipedia, they've actually had a comeback! "The trio … emerged on the 'DirecTV Gameshow: Rock and a Hardplace' [sic] hosted by 'Meatloaf.' ") Here's another classic.
I'm about to turn 30 and am a super awkward and shy engineer who doesn't date much. Any advice to change that?
— Johnny B.
Have you tried online dating at all? It's a promising solution for just about anyone, but it's particularly useful for those who aren't exactly all about prowling the singles scene at the local bar like they're Ryan Gosling in Crazy Stupid Love, or for whom the thought of some gimmicky speed-dating setup or self-actualizing seminar is terrifying.
I'm willing to bet that you're calmer, wittier, and more confident when you're writing an e-mail or commenting on Reddit than you are when you're thrown into an unfamiliar face-to-face social scenario. So why not take advantage of that comfort zone while trying to seek out new people? Any stigma that may have ever existed about meeting people online is pretty much gone by now; just last month my weddings column addressed the rise of couples featured in the New York Times wedding section who were originally introduced by algorithms:
You spend so much time stalking profiles and then sending witty e-mails back and forth to your "matches" that, if things go as planned, by the time you actually meet in person you feel like you're just two old compatible souls. That, combined with a lot of people wookin' pa nub online actually being serious about settling down, removes some of the drama from the equation.
Online dating services are no magic potion, of course, and I'm not trying to remove the human element from the equation or suggest that more old-timey methods like having friends set you up or taking cooking classes to meet ladies should be disregarded out of hand. But the best e-matchmakers have much in common with their flesh-and-blood yenta predecessors: They're both efficient and encouraging.
You're less likely to feel "super awkward and shy" if you've broken the ice at your own pace over instant messages before sitting down to make shouty small talk over complicated cocktail menus. The beauty of meeting people online is that it can raise the likelihood of a successful date while also lowering the perceived stakes of a dud.
And oh, let's be clear, there will be duds. (Kissing frogs to get to a prince was not a concept that originated with the World Wide Web, after all.) But that's fine, and that's vital, and like anything else even those experiences build important foundations. Think about how much better you were at your fourth or 10th job interview than at your fumbling first. Be open-minded, be excited, and be yourself. One man's "super awkward and shy" is another woman's excited phone call to her friends telling them that she finally met someone who isn't an asshole. You've got this, and good luck.
All I ask is that if you wind up with Martha Stewart, please invite me to the wedding.
This article has been updated to correct information about the seeding of the New York Rangers' opponents in this year's playoffs.