Thursday, May 21, 2009

My Other Love

I used to live in Detroit, MI during the 1990s. By year three I became familiar enough with their best sports team; The Detroit Red Wings. They are an Original Six team and have had periods in the 40s and 50s when they were dominant. After two decades of mediocrity, their resurgence began with the arrival of my favorite player, Steve Yzerman in mid 1980s. I could write an entire post about him and maybe I will, but that is for later.

My earliest memory of a hockey game or at least the earliest one I remember was not a happy one. It was a first round play off Game 7 loss to San Jose Sharks in 1993-94. In those days I naively thought that the better hockey team always won. That year, the Wings were acknowledged to be in a league of their own whereas Sharks were the new kid on the block.

The next year was even more tragic. The Wings advanced to Cup finals and lost to a bunch of goons and thugs, euphemistically called the New Jersey Devils. As you can see almost 15 years and several cup victories later the bitterness has not left the palate.

The following year, in 1995-96, the Wings sprinted through the regular season setting a NHL record 62-12-8 record!! They seemed to run out of gas by the time the playoffs started. They muddled through two rounds of playoff and even endured a scare when St Louis Blues, led by the tandem of the great Gretzky and Hull, nearly upset them. Then in the conference they ran into another up and coming team, the Colorado Avalanche. The Avs only beat the Wings, Clod Lemeiux rearranged Kris Draper's face.

Then comes my favorite moment ahead of almost all the cup victories. On March 26, 1997 of the following season when Avs and Wings met during a regular season game, a fight broke out that would have ramification for the next decade. Darren McCarty pummeled Clod and then to rub salt in the wound scored the winning goal in overtime!! The Wings would never look back. As expected the Wings and Avs met again in the conference finals and this time the score was reversed. The cup final was an anti-climax with the Wings crushing the Philadelphia Flyers.

Within a week came the worst moment in franchise history. Vladimir Konstantinov's career ended in an auto-accident. This cut short the career of what could have been one of the greatest D-man in hockey. His nickname was Vladinator and during the pre-game warmups, JLA used to frequently show videos spoofing the Terminator.

The Wings are arguably one of the best managed teams in pro-sports. I say this not as a fan, please read what sports writers regularly say about the team management in CNNSI and ESPN. By the end of the 1990s they had been to the Stanley Cup Finals several time winning it all twice. Over all in the past ten years they have won the Cup 4 times!!

In summary, I have had the benefit of watching them
  1. Win 4 Stanley Cups
  2. Appear in 5 Stanley Cup finals
  3. Appear in 8 Western Conference Finals (including this year)
  4. Win 6 President's Trophy for the best regular season. In the years that they do not win the Trophy they are in the hunt and usually in the top 3 teams.
  5. Appear in playoffs for the past 18 straight years, the longest current streak of any professional league in the US
No other hockey team comes close to this. In short they are the best.

Note 1: The Wings have won several more Stanley Cups, appeared in several finals, what I have here is a snapshot of the past 2 decades when hockey was relevant in my life.

Note 2: The playoffs for this year is still in progress. Based on the results this blog could be updated.

Monday, May 18, 2009

I Ran A Relay Marathon - Again

Yesterday I took part in another relay marathon. I had taken part in the same event last year too. This year there was a small twist. In this year's edition all four legs of the relay were of equal length of about 6.5 miles (10.5 km), whereas last time the first leg was 10 miles with subsequent legs being 5.4 miles each. This meant I had to run more than a mile extra compared to last time.

The Chariots of Fire team brought only 5 teams this year. Just like last time, we came second. I personally did better this time since I had two personal goals that I had set out to achieve
  1. No Walking
  2. Under 1 hour 20 minutes
I did not walk. I paced my self much better this time. I also was in much better shape compared to last time.

I was within a few seconds of my second goal (I think I need 1 hour 20 minutes and about 14 seconds)!! (I averaged slightly less than 8 minutes for a km, rather slow I agree)

After I came home, I talked to my wife and we are planning on taking an entire team, even two teams from our area (4 to 8 people) to this event next year!!

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Am I a Loser?

That was a rhetorical question. So please do not answer unless your answer is a No, I mean an emphatic No!!

Let us go back to our childhood days when we were in some class or other. Do you remember what the teacher asked of us? Do your best. I am sure you never listened. Neither did I. I did not simply care to do my best, I wanted to be better than the others. I wanted to be better than the other boy at cricket. I wanted to beat everyone in badminton. I hated losing as I am sure you did too.

Detour time; during early years at school, I hated girls. Clean; punctual; always did their homework; teachers pet; those goody two shoes!! How I despised them!! In particular it bothered me when the girls in the class always stood first. It was not good enough for me to be good at studies; I wanted to be better than them. It rarely happened, but when it did, it felt sweet. Thank god, this phase lasted only till puberty.

Back again with more rhetoric; Let us flip the question. Am I a winner? Define winner.

Each of us has a chosen profession. I am a Computer Scientist from that time when it meant something to be one. I mean I understand algorithms, I understand good design, I do not like to merely sling code just because it works.

So am I the best in this? Am I at least near the top? Ha. I mean Ha Ha. (Hint - you are supposed to laugh)

Last time I checked, no one is waiting to give me a Turing Award which is the highest award one can get in my profession and from the body of my accumulated work there is no danger of any nominations in the near future, or for that matter in the distant future. As far as badminton is concerned I am a amateur at Class C/D level player. There are no levels below this. How about wealth? Not unless I am as rich as Bill Gates or Warren Buffett.

If we define success as being the richest, then most of us would be losers. If we define success as having won a Turing Award, Nobel Prize, Olympic Gold Medal, best in badminton (choose your favorite sport) well most of us are not even close.

When someone philosophies that the struggle is simply strive to be a better person; we think it is old man talk.

Well I am older and it now makes sense. Do your best. Yeah I get it now.

I try at every job to be better. I make mistakes and in my next job try not to repeat them. I try to write better code. I read what others in the field have to say and try to follow that. I try to pass on what I know to those who care to listen. In badminton I listen to my daughter's coach. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. At least I cannot be accused of not trying.

Talking about philosophy you know what Descartes said - I think, therefore I am. You all know what a great man he was.

So who am I to quibble - I think I am a winner, therefore I am.