Monday, February 22, 2010

Olympic Chillin’ @ O’Chuck’s

Sometimes ya can’t measure a ‘good time’ in 140 characters or less.
This is gonna be relatively short, and I'm duping this post here on my personal site as well as my hockey blog for a couple reasons; one: I just have to make mention of it, and two: I’m simul-posting to AYBABTU because it has as much to do with my personal life as it does hockey.

Sunday night the Nashville Predators hosted another ‘Chill-Out’ Party at O’Charley’s restaurant in Franklin, TN. The occasion was of course the much-anticipated heavyweight Men’s Hockey bout between the USA and Canada at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

“I WENT TO A HOCKEY VIEWING AND A BLIZZARD BROKE OUT.” No, not really; there really was a game on the big screen TeeVee and much hoopin’ hollarin’ and carryin’ on ensued. A disk jockey from 107.5 The River (center) works the crowd.

Not only was it a meeting of the only two remaining undefeateds in the ‘Group A’ division, as well as a natural blockbuster- must-see match-up by virtue of the natural rivalry between the Americans and their neighbors to the north, the game also featured the local attraction of the Preds’ top defensive pairing of Ryan Suter for the US and Shea Weber for Canada going head-to-head.

To the delight of the packed-house, ‛Sutes’ came out on top.

In a wildly competitive affair, the Americans defeated Canada 5-3, weathering a furious second period shooting storm from their opponents in the first period, then dialed up the intensity to match them in second, and shut them ‛em down in the final stanza, stunning the Canadian Dream Team going away.

If you want a further description of how the game unfolded, I'd invite you to visit my friends, On the Forecheck or Preds on the Glass; they do a much better job of that stuff than I do. Just wait until you’re finished reading here first, aiiight?

The only other thing I'll tell you about the game was that on the USA’s fifth and final goal (an empty-netter by Vancouver Canucks forward, Ryan Kesler), I had the pleasure of leading the room in a rousing chant of, “WE GOT FROS-TIES (clap-clap-clapclapclap), WE GOT FROS-TIES (clap-clap-clapclapclap),” etc.

Yeah I was loud. I was yellin’ at that big screen just as if I was in my own living room and all the people around me were my welcome guests. And the great thing about it was that I’m sure that everyone in that room felt exactly the same way.

What a great group of hockey fans we have here in Nashville! I know, I know, there are great fans all across the NHL, but if anyone anywhere wants to even THINK that Nashville isn’t a vibrant, enthusiastic, knowledgeable hockey market, they would be wrong; dead wrong.

As great as the game was, the party was even better. Gnash was there, as were the Predators EquiplinQ (and no, that’s not a typo), issuing Predators swag to all. Nashville FM radio station 107.5 The River did a great job hosting the prize giveaways during the first intermission (I won a $25 O’Charley’s gift card!). It was loud and raucous and fun.

And as great as the game and the party and the festive feeling that everyone shared, the thing that made it all so great for me were the human connections I made there.

Twitter is great because of the way it diffuses our natural guardedness; it gives us a sense of security to more-or-less be ourselves in a mass group circumstance in a way we most likely wouldn’t if we were in the same situation meeting that same group of people face-to-face.

Heh — let’s be real here. If we were all meeting as many folks as we generally communicate with on Twitter in a real-life sitch, heck, we probably wouldn’t even be heard, for all the people in the room. However, as it is, with Twitter we have the opportunity to be real with the whole Twitterverse on a one-to-one basis.

Given that easy familiarity, it makes expanding those connections even easier when we meet these ‛friends’ in real life.

Seeing Puck City (for the first time)
When I arrived at the viewing party, the room was already filled with hockey fans just buzzing about the game that was soon to start; no seats to be had anywhere. I looked round for familiar faces and thought a few of them registered, but none strongly on the AJ Friend-O-Meter. The waitress who deftly handled the entire room of 50-6o people (which is only a wild guess on my part, there may well have been more than that) was standing nearby taking drink orders from an adjacent table when I decided to be assertive and ask if it would be possible to get more chairs to accommodate myself and the three or four other folks standing there in the door near me.

She politely suggested I go ask the hostess, which made sense. But as I began to duck out of the room to go up front in search of my question's answer, someone called out my name, “Hey, AJ, wait!”

I did a slight double-take in the 3-4 feet in the space of the I had traveled and stuck my head back into the room. “Who said that?” I asked. “Did someone call me?”

The gentleman in the near booth to my right turned to say, “Yeah, it was me. We have a room in the booth if you wanna sit here.”

The man was sitting next to a young woman and another guy across from her, but the seat directly adjacent to his was unoccupied. Of course I enthusiastically accepted his offer. “THANKS!” I exclaimed. As I scanned the faces of he and his party I was trying to figure out the connection, but couldn’t. “How is it you know me?” I asked, sliding my hiney into the booth.

“J.K. Robbins...See Puck City.” And immediately the lightbulb came on. “AH! At last we meet,” I said, beaming.

I was thrilled to meet one of the few remaining Preds bloggers I had yet to run into at one of these Tweetup/Meetup events. J.K. started his Predators blog about the same time as I did mine. We hadn’t met, but I’d commented a few times on his blog, SeePuckCity. He introduced me to his friends, all roomates: the lovely SPC Steph, who co-authors the blog on occasion to his right; Jamie, the gentleman to my left.

Left to depend on the kindness of strangers once again, my new friends came through, big time. We spent the remaining 15-20 minutes before game time about Twitter, the Preds, and our mutual Nashville blog network buddies and acquaintances, and then shared the game together with the rest of the room as if we’d been tight for years.

CHILLIN AT THE CHILL-OUT. Left to right: AJ, Jamie, SPC Steph, & fellow Preds Blogger, J.K. Robbins of See Puck City.

J.K. Robbins is a funny dood. He has a sharp wit (see his version of the viewing party and note his superb snideity in how he describes the EquiplinQ dancers — and BTW, if you’ve never heard one of their radio commercials, you won’t get it; but if you have...brilliant!) that comes across in his writing, but is especially entertaining in person. I knew nothing about him prior to Sunday, save that he was a Preds fan and a smart writer. Now I know enough to know that he’s also a guy I wouldn’t mind hanging out with from time to time.

But I’m gonna stop short of sending a corsage and asking him to the prom...just in case my wife is reading this.

Seriously though, it's refreshing to know that as isolated as we can sometimes make ourselves in social media, all the while convincing ourselves we’re really ‘connected’ because we chat with possibly thousands of peeps each day on Twitter, it’s still that human experience that completes the effect.

If you’ve never attended a Tweetup, you should. You really don’t know what you’re missing.

If you’re a Predators fan and have never attended a Preds Tweetup or other fan event, Gnash will officially come to your house to terrorize your dog.

All the calories, none of the ‘G’
Oh, and speaking of terror, buddy, you don’t know what skeered is until you’ve received the stink-eye from our favorite repelling feline.

GNASH WAS EVERYWHERE; the cat couldn’t stand still. He was so active I couldn’t even get a clear picture…geeze.

Just when I was thinking we were old pals, at one point during the second period of the USA/Canada game, during an especially furious onslaught of Canadian shots on U.S. Goal-keep, the Buffalo Sabres, Ryan Miller, two Americans were trying to wrest the puck from Columbus Bluejackets All-Star forward (and the BJ we most love to hate), Rick Nash.

I shouted out instinctively, “KILL NASH!”

Now if I’d said that on Twitter, there wouldn’t have been a problem. However Gnash, who was standing about six feet to my left couldn’t see the lack of ‘G’ in my real-life ‘tweet’ (and if you knew what my actual speaking voice sounded like you’d appreciate that little euphemism a whole lot more), and...well, let’s just say, I doubt I’ll be on the Big Kitty’s Christmas Card list this year.

But phonetic disparities aside, a great time was had by all.

As an added bonus in the human contact area, I had a chance to spend some time with a couple of great Preds fans I had actually met briefly in person at a recent Preds game, as well as a former co-worker I hadn’t seen for months.

Shelly, her husband and her daughter Raven actually sat in the seats just to the right of ours in Section 329. At the time, we exchanged pleasantries, but never introduced ourselves. But when they walked into the viewing room Sunday night, I recognized them immediately. However I didn't know if they remembered me. We made eye contact a few times, and they gave a look as though they thought I looked familiar, but just couldn't make the connection.

After the game, as I was leaving, I sought them out to say hi assure them that I didn’t have a chain saw and chloroform in my trunk.

I reminded them of where we’d met and we had a great conversation. I discovered that they too are on Twitter, so if you want to follow a fantastic and fun Mom-Daughter Preds fan duo, be sure to visit @dont_puck_it_up (Shelly) and goalies_are_hot (Raven).

MY FRIEND, @christinewhite just HATES to have her picture taken…yup…that’s what she told me…just before she said, “Don’t make me sing…”

My former co-worker, Christine, is one of my longest-standing fellow Preds fans. We worked together forever at The Company — she still does — and I hadn’t seen her since well before I was laid off in November. Chris is another fun and bright individual worth a follow on Twitter (@christinewhite).

All in all it was one of the better Preds outings I’d been to. I hope you’ll make it out to the Gold Medal Party February 28th at Bleachers Sports Grill, also in Franklin, which promises to be an awesome time as well.

Who knows, maybe we’ll be celebrating a U.S. Olympic Gold! And you know, there’s no better people to celebrate with than REAL people.

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