We are trapped in our own brains. There is no escape and no exit, only intake. This is a problem when you know too much.
That’s one thing you rarely think about with the things you love: It is possible to get too close. The knowing is supposed to bring enlightenment. Facts and figures and little bits of trivia are supposed to be useful. The more you understand something or someone—the better you comprehend—the more you can get in return. Synergy and cohesion and all that.
But it’s not always that simple. I think about this all the time. Take Jeff Buckley. I know far too much about a man who drowned 15 years ago in Memphis. But the thing is, I know I love Jeff Buckley just as much as I know that I am in too deep.
I have complex opinions about the track selection of his posthumous release, Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk. I can rattle off the different song titles and bridge variations between songs on the Live at Sin-e double album and Grace, his only true studio work.
If I die before the Zombie Apocalypse, Buckley’s version of Satisfied Mind will play at my funeral before my casket is encased in cement. You know, just in case.
I have a copy of a set Buckley did at Spot Coffee in Buffalo, from his earliest days as a musician when he didn’t want to tour under his father’s last name. He went by Father Demo, a clever touch, I thought.
How did I acquire such a rarity? One day I walked into a Record Theater and heard Buckley’s voice, but didn’t recognize the version of a song from Grace he was playing. I actually walked over to the guy working there and asked what CD it was, because I didn’t know it existed until that moment and wanted to buy it. He said it’s not for sale; that he burned it for a friend and wanted to make sure it worked before giving it to him. Then, probably because he saw the little glint of crazy in my eyes, he gave it to me. No charge.
That last paragraph is by far the most pretentious musical thing about me. Not that I actually spoke to a record store employee with confidence, but that I own a ripped copy of an obscure set from a dead musician in a local coffee shop that was recorded when I was a toddler.
As I said, I’m aware that this has gone too far. I can’t have a rational conversation with someone about Jeff Buckley. Not someone normal, anyway. I know what it sounds like to say you love a musician that Died Too Soon, and I’m aware my Buckley acumen will help me accomplish little in life.
In a way, I think it’s a bit sad. I will never have another moment like the first time I listened to a live version of ‘Lover, You Should’ve Come Over.’ There just aren’t that any Father Demo discs floating around out there.
The thrill of discovery is gone, but in this case the knowledge is definitely worth it. Grace is a beautiful album that will always be within arm’s reach, and I’m thankful my musical tastes veered Buckley’s way in high school. I’ll just try not to bombard my friends with YouTube links to his songs and keep my headphones plugged in, like always.
I’ve thought about this idea of acumen a lot throughout the NHL playoffs. The working knowledge hockey fans have of these teams and players is supposed to help us. Even if our team doesn’t make the playoffs, we know things about the teams that play ours consistently.
What I wonder is how much does this cursory knowledge actually provide us with? Knowing too much can cloud your perception of things, skew your view of the landscape. Forget the more complicated terms like confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance, let’s try something simpler.
Our working knowledge of hockey constantly changes with each game we watch. Something new happens and it replaces something old we once thought. Teams get good and bad, but there are little things we assume and they happen to stick. Until they don’t anymore. These things change all the time, but often we don’t see it. The knowledge practically haunts us.
We just can’t get away. We laud the Flyers and their ability to change, to jettison parts off and retool. Top six forwards swapped and big goaltending contracts make us Sabres fans wonder why we can’t be more like Philadelphia, which always seems to be in the hunt.
And then there’s Danny Briere, the one former Sabre we can’t seem to escape. Briere’s first-round heroics were another acid-induced flashback to a time when he scored postseason goals wearing blue and gold. His success felt inevitable. For a while, at least.
We drooled when the Orange and Black knocked off Pittsburgh and become ‘Cup Favorites;’ only to turn our attention West when it all falls apart against the Devils.
But here’s the thing about that series: The Devils took it to Philadelphia in that series. New Jersey forechecks and attacks and is relentless on the boards. Their defense is surprisingly adequate and there is an odd charm in rooting for Martin Brodeur, who can still stack the pads every now and again to remind you just how long he’s been playing ice hockey.
That definitely doesn’t jive with what we usually think when the Devils come to town. This is the team that tried to ‘kill’ the league with the trap. The slow-moving, crushing neutral zone presence that turned ice to glue and made third periods last hours. The team that always yields mid-week, Bronze-level games at First Niagara Center. You’re not supposed to get an enjoyable night of hockey out of the Devils. That’s not the script we keep stored in our heads.
Yet here they are, battling in the Stanley Cup Finals with a FUN TO WATCH Kings team that has blown through the Western Conference with relative ease. The Kings, with their witty Twitter account and Dustin Browns and Anze Kopitars, are making hockey fans fall in love.
And hey, man, I’m on board with that. Brown is fun to watch for a guy that was supposedly milling around the trading floor a few months ago. The things I’ve seen from him look pretty solid from all the way over here.
But again, how much do I really know about this ‘fun’ Kings team? Other than a 4-2 loss to the Sabres in Berlin on October 8, I haven’t seen much of them until the postseason. Chris said they were a mess when he visited the Staples Center during the regular season. I believe him, but they look far from messy right now.
This isn’t about picking sides, though. It’s what you know versus what is really there. For example, I’ve said for the last few months now that Jonathan Quick would start for Team USA’s men’s hockey team at the next Winter Olympics. Right now that looks like a smart bet, but where was I getting this great insight from?
Everywhere but the City of Angels. I had read that Quick kept the Kings afloat earlier in the regular season when they were struggling offensively, but other than a glance at his numbers I was mostly in the dark. My reasoning came from Ryan Miller’s play, which is not likely to be at the level it was in 2010, and Tim Thomas’ age. That’s it.
Even if I’m right, what exactly is that opinion worth?
I’m not sure how long the Devils have been an enjoyable team to watch, but I think Kovalchuck and Co. will make this a very, very interesting series. At the very least, New Jersey is showing me something different, altering the expectations in my head for what Devils hockey should look like. When the game starts to change, I think it’s important to weigh our perceptions and try again. It’s not a bad idea to start with a team you don’t pay much attention to.
I’m excited about this series in many ways, but I don’t have a real rooting interest. I’m just ready for the last few games of this season to tell me something different. Like that old NFL playoffs motto, I’m ready for them to show me something.
No matter what happens over the next few games, I’m ready to leave this season with a satisfied mind.