MAY
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It's The Most Incredible Save In Washington Capitals History

If the Washington Capitals somehow end up winning a Stanley Cup this year, they will look back on one play that occurred on Wednesday night, May 30, 2018, and say "that's the one that did it."

This area has seen some iconic plays over the years: John Riggins running 70-Chip for the winning touchdown and the Washington Redskins’ first Super Bowl win; Jayson Werth hitting a walkoff, game winning home run in Game 4 of the National League Division Series in 2012, maybe Darrell Green’s punt return for a touchdown in 1988 in the playoffs against the Chicago Bears.

But if you’re carving out the Mount Rushmore of DC iconic plays, it may be time to move a mountain and add Braden Holtby’s save of a point-blank, wide open net shot by Alex Tuch that was the difference in the Capitals’ 3-2 win Wednesday night. It was also the Caps first win in a Stanley Cup Finals series in the history of mankind.

As you can see in the video, there’s just no way Tuch could have missed scoring a goal. He hit it firmly and low, but Holtby stretched out with his stick as far as he could, and somehow fate saw to it that puck and wood collided.

The challenge now is if you’re going to have a play that is this iconic, it has to have a name. Announcers called it “The Save” for the rest of the game, but that’s kind of boring and predictable. I instead prefer the “Immaculate Extension” because (A) I’m still not sure how he was able to extend himself that far to his right and (B) His play provoked tens of thousands of people in the Virginia-DC-Maryland to call out the name of the Almighty after he stopped the puck. All at once.

Whatever you call it, it was the greatest save I’ve seen in the history of the franchise. And it may be the difference maker this year in deciding who takes home Lord Stanley’s Cup.

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MAY
30
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Don't Laugh, You're Probably Just As Superstitious Too

It just occurred to me that I may have to stop writing stuff for this site for another week or two.

It's because I am extremely superstitious when it comes to sports (don’t laugh, you know you are too). Around mid-April, the Caps were down 2-0 in the first round of the playoffs, every time I mentioned them something bad happened to them, and I stopped. They rebounded, won the series with Columbus, then Pittsburgh, then Tampa Bay.

So Friday, believing the curse was over, I started posting regularly again.

Then the Caps lost Monday night.

I realize the actions of one old man in Ashburn Farm should not have any effect on the play of a dozen or more professional athletes from all over the world who are doing battle 2,000 miles away. But sports fans are not always given to rational thought.

And I’m not alone in this regard.

I, for example, know whether my favorite team won or lost when I was wearing just about every shirt or jersey I own. If I eat a particular meal and one of my teams has a big win, I eat the same meal before the next big game. If I get up and go in the kitchen for a particular soft drink or snack and I come back and my team has hit a home run, scored a touchdown, gotten a goal, etc….I go back and get another when that teams needs a big play.

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MAY
29
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Somebody Needs To Explain NHL Officiating To Me

Somebody needs to explain NHL officiating to me.

In any other sport, if you knock over the person in front of you like an anxious Mom at a Black Friday sale trying to get the last big-screen television, a whistle blows and some sort of penalty is called.

But apparently not in the NHL.

As you can see in the video here, Ryan Reaves cross-checks John Carlson to the ice like a snowplow clearing a road. With that road cleared, he easily took a nine-iron to the puck, launching it on an upward trajectory and scored what would turn out to be the winning goal.

Imagine if this happened in football: A tight end is in the end zone, pushes the safety in the back to the ground, then catches the ball for a touchdown.

Penalty every time.

Imagine in basketball. Two players are jostling for position and while the ball caroms off the rim, one pushes the other in the back to the floor. Left alone, the other player gets the rebound and easily scores a layup.

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MAY
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On This Memorial Day, I Remember A Total Stranger. Again.

Every Memorial Day, for the last nine years, I dig up an old copy of a story I wrote on Memorial Day in 2009. It involves a young man I had never met, and who would forever be a total stranger to me.

He was a hero. A husband. A Dad. And a big fan of the Washington Capitals. If he were alive today, he’d be 35 years old and probably doing what the rest of us will be doing tonight: glued to a television set, wearing an Ovechkin jersey, and cheering on the Caps along with his two kids, who by now should be teenagers.

Here’s the story:

On this Memorial Day, I find myself thinking of a Marine I never met. And never will.

His name was James. R. McIlvaine. He grew up in Olney, Md., and his mother lives in Purcellville. He was killed in Iraq on April 30 while saving the life of another. He was 26 years old, and the father of two children.

Unfortunately, most of us see news like this every day in the newspaper. We pause, read the details, feel for the family, then turn the page and move on. We don’t dwell on it for too long, because it is inevitable that another face, another name, and another set of circumstances regarding a battlefield casualty will be in the paper in a few more days.

This one was different, because not long afterward my phone rang. McIlvaine had a rather large immediate family, including three sets of grandparents, and the local VFW wanted to make the trip from Purcellville to Arlington Cemetery as comfortable as possible under the circumstances. Four SUVs had been secured (two donated for the day by Ray Glembot at Star Pontiac GMC in Leesburg) and a police escort would be provided.

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MAY
28
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In Memory Of The Fallen...

I was not aware of this song until a friend posted a link to it.

I challenge you to watch it until the end and still have at least one dry eye.

Thank you to all who have served for your service and sacrifice.... 

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MAY
27
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The Finished Product...

Since I've been trying to encourage everyone to try making pulled pork barbecue this weekend, I did not want to appear to be one of those "do as I say, not as I do" kind of people. So here's my finished product.

It turned out great, particularly when paired with  cole slaw, baked beans, deviled eggs and potato salad. My wife said if I posted this, I better credit her for making the beans and not "steal her bean glory." So she made the beans and they were fantastic.

Hope yours came out as well. Now it's time to find a sofa and watch the Indy 500...

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MAY
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Happy Motorhead Thanksgiving, Everybody!

The calendar doesn’t specifically recognize it, but today is Motorhead Thanksgiving, the greatest day of the year for people who love cars and take motorsports seriously.

Even though I’m not that much into cars, for many years there was a yearly ritual in my house on this day. Get up in the morning and get the grill/smoker/whatever you cook on outdoors ready at about 11. Watch the beginning of the Indianapolis 500 for an hour. Go out and finish cooking. Come back in the house, have a meal with your family and see the finish of Indy. Nap. Watch the beginning of the World 600. Nap some more. Wake up and still be able to see the last 3 hours of the World 600 since it seems like it went on forever most years.

The holiday, however, is dying no matter how fancy the commercials shown on TV are for the races. Younger generations in general don’t seem that interested in going to any live sporting events, and the older generations that really supported racing over the years are passing away. Television has saturated the market with too much of a good thing, ticket prices have been raised beyond what demand warrants, and the product itself these days isn’t that good. Turn on any live sporting event these days and you’ll see a lot of empty seats. Turn to a race and you’ll see even more.

I was lucky enough to discover NASCAR racing at just about the time it was making the transition from good ol’ boy, gritty, redneck sport that was rarely on television, to one that was the darling of ESPN and growing faster than any other sport out there. A fight – of all things – at the Daytona 500 that involved Cale Yarborough and brothers Donnie and Bobby Allison (above) seemed to capture a lot of people’s attention in the sport. So naturally when a friend said let’s go to Martinsville Speedway and see one, I was game.

Much like Daytona, we weren’t 5 minutes out of the car before we saw a fight…although this was between fans in the parking lot. What were they fighting about? One said “Ford” and the other said “Chevrolet” and next thing you knew, fists were flying. Once inside in our seats, we met dozens of down-home, salt-of-the-earth people with serious opinions on why Cale Yarborough was a good guy and Darrell Waltrip (who would win the race that day) was not. They were fiercely loyal, and they all cheered, booed, threw chicken bones down at the fence at the base of the racetrack and just appeared to have a heck of a time.

That’s when I really learned the sport's appeal, and it really is the formula for all sports. People didn’t go to races and spend good money for a ticket to see 500 left turns. They came to watch heroes battle villains, and over the years little changed. The guys who were young and beat the established heroes (like Waltrip and Jeff Gordon) were the ones people booed for a long time before coming around. The old school guys like Dale Earnhardt Sr., Bobby Allison, Cale Yarborough, etc. could do no wrong. But no matter what track they raced at, you generally had a driver you were going to like and a driver you’d like to see get put in the wall.

For about a decade, it was golden. The sport went Hollywood with all the television coverage, but the drivers were still the same down-to-earth characters they’d always been. They were fun in interviews, very relatable to fans, and trying to go to places like Indianapolis for the Brickyard 400, or a night race at Bristol were next to impossible because tickets were so hard to find.

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MAY
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Here's A New Game To Explore: "Messin' With Alexa"

I will acknowledge that when “Siri In A Can” – the Amazon Echo – first came out, I was one of the first to buy it. And it was fun for awhile, until it dawned on me that in order to answer when I said “Alexa”, it kind of had to listen all the time. What it did with what it heard all the time wasn't something I felt great about, so about two years ago, I just unplugged it and put it on a dresser in the guest room.

But no more. I’ve discovered a new use for it as more and more of these revelations about Alexa and her listening habits make the news. Remember those Jack Link beef jerky commercials about “Messin’ With Sasquatch”? Well, in my house, it’s now “Messin’ With Alexa.”

I started first by placing it somewhere that anything it heard wouldn’t be very useful: The guest room bathroom. After years of my wife and I being in each other’s way getting ready in the morning, I discovered a few years ago that you can shower and get dressed over there and nobody critiques how you hung up a towel, or complains if you miss the clothes hamper by a few inches with an otherwise near-professional toss. Why not put it there?

As an Echo is also a decent speaker for music, the product is also a handsfree tool that you can say “play Channel 311 on Sirius XM” or “play WJFK on Tunein” and it will do so. That’s helpful in the morning when you’re rushing around, so to a degree it has been useful.

But now it has evolved into part of a game. Every morning I have questions for Ms. Alexa. When it was reported this week that some family in Portland had its conversation recorded by an echo and emailed to someone else, I started by saying “Alexa, do you talk to the CIA?” While most of the time Alexa answers with “sorry, I didn’t get that” she did immediately respond to that with “Amazon takes privacy very seriously”, which I took as an admission that Siri in a can gets that question a lot, so programmers gave her an answer.

I ask Alexa what she thinks of Amazon and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos (she replies he’s “5 stars”) and a host of other questions suggesting she’s Mata Hari in a matte black finish, but for the most part she just says “sorry, I didn’t get that.” While predictable, I still brace for that moment Alexa’s voice drops to a deep bass and I hear “that’s enough questions, funny guy.”

At times there are surprises. Since the only things you’re going to hear in a bathroom are water running, a toilet flushing, or a sound that can best be described as “thunder without lightning”, I ask Alexa if she’s listening to me sing along with the songs she’s transmitting. “Sorry, I didn’t get that” is her answer. But then I ask “Alexa, can YOU sing?”

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MAY
25

It's Time For Memorial Day BBQ. You Can Do This...

Every time about this year, I run into younger friends who say how much they love barbecue. Each time I hear it, I usually counter with “if you love it so much, why don’t you make it at home so you can have it more often.”

This is usually quickly followed by a look from my younger friends that suggest I’ve just asked him to go dig up some uranium in the back yard.

So let’s go over this. One. More. Time.

Making pulled pork barbecue is about as easy as it gets. It’s only about a quarter step up from boiling water. And when it’s on sale, you can make as much as you could probably eat in a month for 10 bucks.

The cut of meat you need to make barbecue from is called either a pork shoulder of a Boston Butt. It normally sells for between $1.79 to $1.99 pound and around holidays like Memorial Day, it’s usually on sale. Harris-Teeter, for example, is selling a Smithfield pork shoulder/Boston Butt for 99 cents a pound this week (what you should see at Harris Teeter should look exactly like the picture above), which means WE are having barbecue this weekend. For you folks who skipped math, that means a good sized 8-pound shoulder is going to cost under $8. Or about what you’ll pay for one barbecue sandwich at a Nationals game.

After you’ve purchased one, you need to allow two days before you plan to serve it. I bought one today, will follow this process, and we will have it for lunch on Sunday. Here’s what you do:

A shoulder tastes best when slow cooked with a dry rub applied, so you need to make one. There are a lot of ingredients you can use, but they usually fall into three categories: something sweet, something salty and something savory. The something sweet is easy: brown sugar. The something salty is pretty easy too: salt. The savory includes things like garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, paprika, maybe even cumin. Add equal parts of the sugar, salt and the savory ingredients you like and mix together.

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