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Free Hockey!

“And a cursory glance was thrown at the badge…I just can’t imagine the indifference it would take to let you into the press area with that thing at the Western Hemisphere’s biggest sporting event of the night.”

That sporting event just happened to be Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals, and the “badge” (I use the term loosely) was a 4×6 print made at CVS a couple hours before the puck dropped for 58¢. The whole thing snowballed out of a natural urge to get into a Lingerie Football League game a half year ago. Why couldn’t a no-name blogger put together a credential to shill his way into a B-List sporting event? One success there led to a few free parking trips to Citizens Bank Park, and before I knew it I had walked into the press booth to catch a few innings of baseball and gorge on the press buffet.

This was different though. This was the Stanley Cup finals. There is an expression “buy the ticket, take the ride,” but I had no intention of buying a ticket. With face value north of the $250 mark and scalpers commanding twice that, buying a ticket was out of the question. So I donned the “badge” grabbed the biggest lens I could find and grabbed an accomplice to haul a tripod. It’s amazing what one can accomplish with a bit of liquid courage and the right equipment.

Doors one and two were easy, just walked by the real media and arena staff to a corridor where the gatekeeper sat, deciding who to buzz in and who to ask for credentials. Apparently the lens and tripod were credential enough and ten seconds later there we were: in the tunnel under the Wachovia Center watching the Philadelphia Flyers prep for their biggest game in two decades. They were juggling a soccer ball in a circle.

Feeling quite underdressed and undercredentialed, to say the least, it was time to head for the elevators. It was time to take the proverbial ride, which ended in the VIP suite and media level. Giddy like a school girl is an understatement. There I was feet from Jeremy Roenick and Dan Patrick preparing to go live across the country on NBC to begin their coverage of Game 6. Good lord, the Cup is in the building and two jackasses with a tripod a camera and two home made credentials were just waltzing around the place, and nobody thought anything of it.

“Barry—Mr. Melrose, over here!” and I’ll be damned if he didn’t turn and answer. “Mr. Melrose, can I get a picture for the website?” and sure enough Mr. Hockey obliged. This was getting rediculous.

Just how far could this ship sail, I wondered. And soon found out. It didn’t take much to get to the corporate suites with the credentials, and a few pleasantries later we had befriended the MasterCard folks and were enjoying the 1st period in their suite. Somewhere in the middle of the period, the suits wheeled in what appeared to be a cake under a sheet. This was not a cake. It was the Prince of Wales trophy, making its way around the high rollers and posing for photos—don’t mind if we do!

I guess this is where we got a big cocky. Waiting for an elevator during intermission, we got got. Walkie=talkies were chirping and moments later Nurse Ratched of the NHL Media department appeared, and was less than enthusiastic to see the ‘badges’ the tripod and the huge camera. I sensed she was more concerned with the images that I may have captured of game action than she was with how we got there. Under escort we walked to security where she planned to interrogate us.

Sheer instinct takes over at times like that and I fumbled for my phone in my pocket, carefully grabbing the spare memory card as I took out the phone. I managed to swap cards and shoot a few shots in the corridors as we walked. She decided I would have to check the tripod and telephoto lens, but before doing so she demanded to see the images I’d shot. Joke’s on you Ms. Ratched, no game shots on that card, and with that she left us alone.

We wandered the suites and concourses for the rest of the game. Only when the Flyers tied the game in the third could anyone else in the building feel they had gotten what we’d been enjoying all night long—free hockey.

As I watched Lord Stanley’s Cup make it’s way to the ice and booed Gary Bettman I noticed Ms. Ratched there on the ice escorting the “real” press into position to get the shot of Toews hoisting the cup and parading around. I think I was in better position than all of them. The Blackhawks may have had the Cup, but I think we were the real winners that night. Enjoy the whole album here.


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Welcome to Philly Sarah!

Pennsylvania used to be a battleground state. This was supposed to be a no-brainer for Palin. She wasn’t even supposed to speak. How bad could it go. All they wanted was for the best-known hockey mom in the country to drop a ceremonial puck before a hockey game in Philadelphia. After all it was in this very arena where  President Bush’s speech was broadcast between periods in the wake of September 11th, and was turned off after the teams returned for the third period:

When that happened, the fans began to boo, prompting Ron Ryan, the chief operating officer of the Flyers, to order that the address be put back on the screen. For the next 33 minutes, the players and fans watched.

The third period was ultimately called, the teams shook hands and the game declared a 2-2 tie. This should have been a slam dunk. These people were God-fearing Americans who understood National Security and related to hockey-moms  and average Joe candidates.

They were supposed to know how dangerous this world is and which candidates were going to keep America safe. So clearly the welcome must have shocked Ms. Palin as she and her two daughters walked onto the ice Saturday—even the Rangers received a warmer reception. 20,000 people were not supposed to boo Sarah Palin as she shook hands with fellow Alaskan Scott Gomez and Mike Richards. Her daughters were not supposed to see this. She was dropping a puck, not answering Charles Gibson; why were they booing her?

What this is making perfectly clear to anybody who without his head in the sand is that Americans are now almost entirely incapable of taking Sarah Palin seriously. She is becoming a caricature of herself and it is at the point where she doesn’t even have to open her mouth to do so anymore. Her pining for an appearance on SNL and this NHL hockey-mom stunt are being received as they should: political diversions and desperate photo-ops for somebody who really shouldn’t be one massive stroke removed from sitting at the Resolute Desk.

Undeterred by her recent inability to be taken seriously at mass gatherings, sources close to the Palin camp tell me she will be making an appearance at Atlanta Motor Speedway on the 26th of October. ExxonMobil is furnishing several luxury boxes for the event through the weekend and will allow Ms. Palin the opportunity to promote her energy platform at the Nextel Cup Chase race that weekend. Her husband Todd is also expected to address a large crowd of NASCAR-dads before delivering the pre-race invocation on Sunday.

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