Y’all, AM and I are feeling super-ritzy today because our dear friend Josh called and requested he write a guest post for this blog! Flattery is the way to our hearts, so well-played, Josh! I fear he is severely overestimating our readership, but we are delighted to spotlight his great story nonetheless. Enjoy!
I love Anna Marie and Lee’s hilarious recaps of daily life in Houston, so I asked if I could contribute a post about my trip last night to the Houston Aeros minor leaguer hockey game. I don’t have a blog, but I wanted to write something. Lee said this seemed fine, so here we are. (Just for the record: my first appearance in this blog was Anna Marie’s post about ice sculpting, where a picture of me was included giving a regrettable thumb’s up).
This was my first Houston Aeros game, and I was immediately awed by a showcase of how to do things halfway. As a pro sporting spectacle, it lacks money, sponsors you’ve heard of — unless you’re a “sun spot” fanatic — and the quality of the game is a little sloppy. I expected a ton of fights, but was only teased by a few pushes and shoves. But it was my first hockey game, so just being there and hearing the slap of the puck and people getting slammed against the boards was pretty gratifying.
We arrived at the game and things got off to a rocky start. My sister’s purse was VERY thoroughly searched, and security was not pleased to discover her water bottle. Judging by the fan base, the assumption is that this is filled with straight vodka that she plans to chug and then “get in someone’s face.” (There was one guy wearing a camo-Aeros jersey who banged on the glass every time a player got near it — sort of a reverse zoo gorilla situation if that makes sense.) My sister’s water bottle is very fancy (Fischers LOVE water) and cost more than her ticket, so she had to go back to the car to save it.
After that hurdle, we found our seats, and I had the extreme pleasure of awkwardly asking a woman wearing a thousand Aeros buttons, an Aeros jersey, and an eye patch to move so we could get in. I realized after asking that she was disabled and was having a hard time getting up. I offered that we could go around instead of asking her to move, and she angrily screamed, “I”M ALREADY UP.” I really felt welcomed into the Aeros community.
A child was then sitting in my seat, and I had to ask a string of nearly 9,000,000 children to all move down one seat. Luckily a parent intervened and made it happen because the kids all looked at me with complete befuddlement, as if I had just passed out complex math problems.
Once situated, we realized that a 7:30 starting time had been inexplicably delayed to 8:15 or so, and we watched the zambonis go around and around. When the game was finally underway, the Aeros appeared to be in control with the Bulldogs on their heels. A goal was scored fairly quickly, and we all went completely nuts. It was also an introduction to the fact that jock jams are basically a form of crack for children. As soon as something like “Whoomp There It Is” goes on, kids in the stands gyrated and convulsed uncontrollably. I imagine they’ve had to outlaw any jock jams ever being played over elementary or middle school PA systems because it would cause pandemonium. Also, the biggest moment of applause and uproar throughout the night, including goals, was when they played Justin Bieber’s “Baby.”
My friend with the eye patch seemed to be the only real fan, and during slow moments of play would just shout in a groaning tone, “BORING.” Also, during bad calls, she would hold a small voodoo doll-like ref puppet hanging from a noose. It was disturbing. She also had some kind of zebra thing hanging from her seat that I don’t really want to know the significance of or how it might relate to the dark arts. She also liked to hold really small signs with lettering on them that were maybe visible from no more than 5 or 10 feet, like an eye test for fans. Because I was (thankfully) so close to her, I did catch one directed at the ref that said, “ARE YOU PREGNANT? BECAUSE YOU’VE MISSED 2 PERIODS.” This was not only inappropriate for the number of children in the audience, but also unnecessarily limited to use during the third period. I did not see if maybe she had a series that fixed the number to match just how many periods the pregnant ref had missed.
Speaking of refs, this appears to be the most horrifying job choice that one can make. Players and pucks fly at you with reckless abandon, and you have to hop up onto the bench like a rodeo clown trying to get away from the bull. I have no idea how they can concentrate on the game. I would be so concerned for my own safety that I don’t think I would ever make a call during a game, and if I ever blew my whistle, it would probably just be out of random fear and panic. Luckily, I was seated next to my friend Kat who could explain hockey’s rules, some of which seem kind of subjective, probably because they realize most are arbitrarily made in a life or death situation.
Eventually the Bulldogs tied up the score, and the game reached a stalemate. The Bulldogs appeared to be faster on the ice and better passers, but our mighty Aeros did not flinch. As the periods ended, we were treated to what can best be summarized as a bad high school talent show. They isolated a grouping of children from different schools in an unused section of stands (of which there was no shortage), and these children would perform a song or “talent.” One consisted of them banging bright, orange buckets probably purchased that morning from home depot. It was like a DJ Screwed version of Stomp as they slowly moved buckets around and eventually used drum sticks to create a very unintentionally syncopated abstract beat.
When we weren’t watching cobbled together high school or middle school renditions of songs, they tried to get fan interaction going to get us all completely pumped. One of these was a very literal form of pumping — fist pumping. It was gratuitously long, over two minutes, and people fatigued as soon as they realized all they were doing was fist pumping toward no specific aim or goal — remember, there’s no money or significant sponsors so free trinkets aren’t given away; everything’s for the love. I tried to capture this fist pumping in a video. They could not let a child win a free tan from sun spot, so they gave away a seat upgrade. The jumbotron camera laboriously tracked the lucky family as they slowly made the journey down multiple rows to their new and improved seats. It was excruciatingly long and felt like some piece of experimental film.
They also did a giveaway where everyone tries to throw a puck in a very small basket to win money from a casino. It was awesome to see all the pucks fly from the crowd onto the ice — imagine thousands of black pebbles skipping and slipping on a pure white canvas. The contest itself was like a bad carny game and appeared to be basically impossible. 1. To actually land it in from the stands, you’d have to be able to throw a puck a significant distance that would require professional baseball skills. 2. The basket was not much larger than a puck.
Between these halftime/timeout oddities, the game was a nail biter. The Bulldogs tied it 2-2, and it went into sudden death overtime. The Bulldogs won on an uncontested slapshot. As we walked out a man angrily summed it up best, yelling to no one in particular, “SHIT SHOT. THAT WAS A SHIT SHOT.”