As a product of American television, I've garnered most of my common knowledge from the boob tube. I've learned a little bit from books, but generally, 80% of what I know I learned from television:

One thing that I find doesn't quite work out in the same way in real life is the head injury. Yes, upon impact you do see stars or birdies fly around your head -- but no. Your head doesn't take the shape of the frying pan... and the bandages don't disappear in the next scene.

Many a time I've seen Tom get his bell rung by Jerry, as a large lump forms on the poor cat's head... tongue hangs out... eyes cross... Fifteen seconds later, he's back on the saddle, using his cunning and wits to try to foil his nemesis.

That's why I can't explain why four days after getting knocked for a loop in a collision with a teammate, I still can't fstohfls think d gdsgdl ylys g clearly and yrthfh feel like sh.. ... ....

What could possibly be the next revelation? Riding a motorcycle and saying "Ayyyyyy" isn't cool? The girls at the Regal Beagle aren't easy? Putting your hand perpendicularly to the edge of your nose isn't the best way to avoid a poke in the eyes?

God, I hope not... If these are true, I'm f*cked.


Shecky Greeene Brown

Student: Mr. P, my pen ran out on me.
Prego: That tramp. She did the same thing to me. Did she take the dog?


"Hot" Mail

I found this singed jotting, skewered with a 'pitchfork-esque' swizzle to my front door. I immediately assumed it was in response to yesterday's letter.

'Drear' Prego:

My assistant, Mr. Reagan passed your letter to me. Let me begin by telling you that you are correct: your soul is mine. Theos and I were throwing back the Zimas a while back, (mid 90's) and if I'm not mistaken, I believe that was the height of your foray into debauchery. We discussed your prospects for the afterlife and it was clear to us (particularly after the possum fiasco) that you were destined for perdition. You have about as much chance of getting into heaven as Pete Rose has of getting into the Hall of Fame.

I must admit, though, I like your moxie and irreverence. That's why I'm willing to entertain your offer. As you might have noticed, your Sabres were victors in last night's hockey game. I'm going to mull it over between now and Saturday afternoon. The Senators, after all, did beat my Pittsburgh Penguins.

As for your other proposal, though Attila appreciated it, he has his sights set on the "Zack and Cody" twins. Rosie, however has a vatful of petroleum jelly and some leg shackles with your name on it. As the hillbilly said to Ned Beatty: "Squeal like a pig, boy...!""

Nefariously Yours,

PS I do, in fact, exist. Nice job on the fence-sitting "out" clause, sucker... but around here a deal's a deal.


Soul for Sale

Prego: I'm selling my soul to Satan.
Mrs. P: For what?
Prego: To get the Sabres past this series.
Mrs. P: (Annoyed & Distraught) Ugh.. That's really good. Nice. Nice...

I know she has visions of us walking hand in hand in that giant Jehovah's Witness Petting Zoo in the sky, so it was really difficult for me to break it to her.

Dear Satan, Baal, Beelzebub, Akuma, Prince of Darkness or Whatever:

How are you? Torrid, I hope. Let's not kid ourselves. I know you already lay claim to my everlasting (There was that time in Kentucky with the possum and the voodoo priestess from Havana. Oh... and playing those Judas Priest records backwards...) but I thought I'd ask you for a small request. I don't usually ask for much -- not that you listen much, anyway: American Idol is still on the air, Rosie O'Donnell can still walk and talk... Also, you never sent that murder of crows to pluck out Dr. Phil's moustache hairs one by one -- but you're my last chance.

I realize you're busy, and people ask you for all kinds of stupid crap (fame, fortune... sacrilicious doughnuts; I also realize that his kind request falls into that category - after all, there's no self gain for me and it doesn't quite further your cause, but do you think you can find it in that black void in your chest to let the Sabres squeak through this round of the Stanley Cup playoffs?

The other #$*@ers are ignoring me (and I wish the Dalai Lama would quit calling me) and I don't know where else to turn. I'm willing to spend eternity as Attila's boy-toy or sitting through a Bette Midler triple-feature...

You did it for Ray Bourque, Mario Lemieux and Scotty Bowman, so if it's not too much trouble...


PS If you do in fact exist, kindly ignore this letter. Let the chips fall where they may. I'd hate to think that the Sabres actually won the Cup on anything less than grit, hard work and sheer determination. And say "hi" to Katie Couric for me.


J'aime/Déteste L'Hockey - En Deux Chapitres

Chapitre Un
I always sucked at sports as a kid. My dad told me so at around age 16... which is why I don't set unreachable standards for Le O-Dog to meet. Every time I throw him on the ice, I tune out all the screaming idiot parents, yelling "Shoot!" or "Skate!" to their youngster every time they near the puck. I'm content in watching my boy learn to skate, have fun and keep his *ss off the couch.

Every once in a while, he does something to make me particularly proud.

O-Dog: That kid hit me on purpose.
Prego: Make sure you've got the right number, and go give him a quick glove on his face.

The O-Dog spent the last two minutes of the game chasing this little thug around the rink. He never got him, but he had a smile on his face the whole time.

This past weekend, the O-Dog gave me another "Proud Pop" moment. Anybody who's watched 5-8 year olds play hockey knows it is at times a big clumsy cluster of bodies chasing the puck. I watched as another little guy careened into my O-Dog, sending him to the ice. He falls often, so I didn't give it a second thought... until I clearly saw tears streaming down his face.

I tapped on the glass to try to get his attention, feeling helpless that I couldn't get to him. O-Dog kept skating around. He finally got his coach's attention, pointing to his helmet and getting sent to the bench.

I kept thinking to myself, "Please get back out there..." thinking he might have been too scared to continue.

Four minutes later, the O-Dog is back on the ice for the next shift.

I asked him after the game, "O-Dog, I saw you were crying."

"Yeah. I hit my head."

"You kept skating, though. That was good. What were you doing?"

"I was going after the puck. My team only had one goal and the other team had like a thousand."

All of a sudden, I had visions of Ron Francis, stumbling & crawling on his hands and knees across the ice after a Scott Stevens hit, demonstrating cobbles the size of bowling balls. Regardless of what 'pain' he might have been in, his resolve never lapsed.

"I love you, Odie."
(Puzzled look) "I love you, too, daddy."

Chapitre Deux
Les Putains find themselves in the Conference Semi-Finals again... (Afinogenov just made the score 2-1 as I write this. Yes!)

I find that I turn into quite the idiot this time of year. Ordinarily, I'm a pretty grounded individual, however, playoff hockey turns me into a bundle of nerves. The emotional peaks and valleys are dizzying, and I frequently wonder why I do this to myself. Then I see video clips like this -- a vintage Theo Fleury goal and the spontaneous celebration that still makes my glass eye fog over:

What's it got to do with me? Not a goddamned thing, yet I find myself sporting this ungodly and uncomfortable mess on my face. When I was a kid, I'd watch the Sabres of yore grow these "playoff beards" once their teams entered the post-season. Once Les Putains entered the playoffs, I began to grow this follicular talisman on my puss, as if it's really going to do them any good. From what I see around town, I can at least find some comfort in knowing I'm not the only dumb-ass.

Last year, I stuck to the same brand of beer (Blue Moon) & watched all the games with the same person (my neighbor).
Think of the horror, when my brother threw off our mojo when he showed up with his fiancée and a 12 pack of Saranac. My neighbor and I looked at each other with apprehension as our unexpected guests came in. 'What's the worst that can happen, after all?'

The death knell tolled when our doorbell rang again. My neighbor's father came to join us for the third period and the Sabres subsequently shat themselves out of Cup contention. I don't think my neighbor talked to his father for about a week. I was a little more forgiving and talked to my brother after a couple of days.

This year's taken a different tone. My neighbor is away at college I haven't been pounding the brews -- bedtime is testy enough, without being half in the bag.

(Lydman ties the score at 2! Hecks yeah!)

My juju instead has been these cookies from local dessertery Sweet Tooth:

(The two humping buffaloes at the top of the picture are inadvertent, by the way)

I don't expect a good game from Jochen Hecht, since
a) Fletchmonster dropped the cookie after a couple of bites and
b) the dog ate the lions share of it off the kitchen table.

Incidentally, Hecht is nursing a groin injury and just took a sh*tty cross-checking penalty.

Anyway, I've been watching the bulk of the games alone, prepared to kick anybody out of the house if things ain't going our way... especially my friend Skip. When he and I get together for important games... Sh*t. It's like throwing a hat on Bob Hughes's bed.

Tonight I asked Mrs. P to pick up a sixer of Blue Moon for old time's sake. It may or may not work... Actually, I'm thinking of switching to Magic Hat's #9.

Another couple weeks of facial hair and its accompanying discomfort is a small price to pay to be part of what might hopefully be a Stanley Cup season. Sh*t. I've been relishing these moments for thirty years. And as irreligious as I am, I'm playing all my cards.

You don't know how desperate I am. I'm willing to give the Dalai Lama a reach around if it'll get us past the Ottawa series.

Allez Putains.

The Wh*res shat themselves tonight 5-2. Series is 1-0 Ottawa.
Note to self: Ixnay the No. 9 swill. Get Dalai Lama's number.


Word Whammer, Indeed.

Mrs. P bought the Fletchmonster this LeapFrog® jibber today. We had one of the 'fridge-front' ones a couple of years ago, but the dog chewed up all of the consonants. (Vowels are presumably less tasty.) That one just sounded out the letters -- this new, 'improved' version helps with word recognition for three-letter words.

Mrs. P: Fletchy, why don't you show your daddy what I got you?

The Fletchmonster pulls his toy out and hits the button.

Word Whammer: Let's spell a word. W-A-R. War.

(Mrs. P and I exchange glances.)

Prego: What? Was this f*cking toy designed by Republicans?
Mrs. P: I didn't like that word.

Not that this necessarily warrants a boycott of LeapFrog® products, but you'd think they might have programmed it to start off with "FUN" or some sh*t.


Iron Tyke

The O-Dog and the Fletchmonster are on that "superhero" kick that lasts between ages... oh, two to six or seven. I was hoping to avoid it, but my sister and her kids weren't. A couple visits to Canada and a coustume or two later and it's Dark Knight this and Spider that.

It's not that big a deal, actually. At least the $25-30 costumes they get for Halloween get 360 days usage.

The Fletch has recently invented a new kind of hero.

His uncle came to visit recently to join us for dinner. As he enters the living room he quickly picks up the O-Dog to tickle him and roughhouse. The O-Dog, laughs hysterically, yelling "Fletch. Save me. SAVE ME." At which point the Fletch lunges for my brother's legs.

I leave my brother to his own devices as I go upstairs to get the boys' socks and a couple of clean shirts.

When I come downstairs five minutes later, they're all sitting on the couch calmly watching TV. My brother casually asks me, "Fletch likes to defend his brother, doesn't he?"

"Yeah," I reply. "They like to fight 'bad guys' and all that superhero crap."

"Because the little f*cker bit me."

The Chomper?

Now that's my kind of hero.


Open Letter To the ***hole Who Stole O-Dog's Hockey Equipment

Dear Petty-*ss Thief:

Thanks for the minor inconvenience last week. I'm sure you're proud of your accomplishment. It's the craftiest heist since D. B. Cooper's. I realize I made your 'crime' a bit easier by leaving the door unlocked, but the way you managed the door handle? Now that was some adroit sh*t right there. Masterful.

I don't know what you were expecting to find in the O-Dog's hockey bag: $38,000 in small bills? Bootleg DVDs of Spiderman 3? A complete set of Funk & Wagnalls from 1973? I can imagine your disappointment when all you found was tot sized hockey gear.

There are two scenarios I envision in which you tallied up your haul. One, you cart the satchel off to your squalid little hovel, unzip the bag (I'm sure you were able to handle this task after the way in which you worked your way past the car door) and utter a long "Faaaaaaaaaahhhhhhkkkk" after pulling out tiny skates and and a youth M sized jersey. I hope you at least managed to take the goods in to a used sporting goods store and used the $40 or so they'd give you for a carton of smokes and a case of PBR.

The other less likely scenario assumes you have a little wretch at home. "Look, Jr. Christmas came early this year." In which case, I hope the bastard son of Scott Stevens catches your kid skating with his ugly-*ss head down through centre ice. On second thought, I shouldn't wish ill upon your spawn. It's bad enough it's got you for a parent. Besides, somebody's got to grieve your smack-addled corpse someday.

Either way, my congratulations on your cunning and guile. Maybe next time you can help yourself to the 43¢ in pennies and nickles I had in the ashtray.

Disdainfully yours,

PS I replaced the O-Dog's gear. Perhaps you'd like to take it from us mano a mano? I'd love to have you try. I'm sure they'll be able to surgically remove the hockey stick from your rectum.