By Paul Caputo and Jeffrey Carl
Our sports review of the Richmond Renegades hockey team, including lots of praise for Frozen Walt Disney, “Funky Town,” compressed-Uranium bowling balls, and “Ice-Cold Hot Dogs.” Nothing says “timeless, universal comedy” like starting your column out with a shot across the bow of a short-lived word processing software release. It’s the kind of thing everyone can identify with and really get behind.
Hi. We are Jeff and Paul, continuing our crusade against Evil, Non-Alcoholic Beer and Microsoft Word 6.0 for Macintosh.
Last week, we were given a Special Assignment, which generally means that the State is trying to send us somewhere where we’ll get killed so we won’t write anymore. Jason Roop, dressed in ceremonial robes, escorted us into the office of the Lord High Editor, and after we bowed and made the customary salutations and ritual sacrifices, we were told our mission: “To investigate the terrible violence problem in the city.” We said that was fine, and asked could it be the violence problem in the city of Acapulco? “No,” we were told, “in Richmond.”
So we went to the most violent part of the city at night and wrote about what we saw.
We went to the Coliseum for a hockey game between the Richmond Renegades and the Charlotte Checkers. The Renegades (not affiliated with Lorenzo Lamas) are Richmond’s premier sports franchise, except, of course, for the Richmond Braves, the VCU Rams basketball team, the University of Richmond synchronized judo team and the Dallas Cowboys.
For those of you who are woefully ignorant, or French, hockey is a sport wherein players put on ice skates and attempt to kill each other. The players skate around and hit a “puck” with big “sticks,” then hit “each other.” Also, people score “goals” or something.
When we arrived, our press passes were ready and waiting for us, probably because we told them we worked for the Times-Dispatch. We wandered around the Coliseum, which they call “The Freezer” during Renegades games because that’s where they keep all the leftovers, searching for the Press Room, hoping that there would be journalism supplies, like free beer. The basement was strewn with threatening signs indicating horrible things behind locked doors: “No Admittance!” “Warning: Poisonous Ice Snakes!” and “NewsChannel 6: Coverage You Can Count On!” When we found it, the Press Room’s doors were chained shut – either to keep unauthorized people out, or to keep reporters in – and when we finally got inside, all they had was soda and pizza left over from the Ford administration.
The game began and several fans immediately stood up and yelled that various other people sucked.. While the quality of the Richmond booing was not quite up to the high standards of, say, Philadelphia (where Paul once loudly booed an eight-year-old boy for missing a pop-fly at a Phillies game), the booing was consistent and had good tonal variation.
The game itself was pivotal: the Renegades had the best record in the “Eastern Division” standings, but the Checkers were in first place in the all-important “Alphabetical” standings. The tension was not only palpable, it was palatable and sort of minty-flavored.
When the Renegades made a good play (usually involving a member of the opposition losing at least three fingers), the fans — many of whom were eating “Rold Gold” pretzels, just in case Richmond needed an extra goalie — would cheer and tell people they sucked.
We took a seat in the lowest level, which we figured improved our chances of catching a puck in the teeth. Hockey pucks, we are told, are made of rubber. This is a lie. Jeff knows from his high-school hockey days as a goalie that pucks are made of compressed uranium bowling balls. Furthermore, pucks are just angry about life, and actually want to smack people in the face if they get the chance.
Eventually, we wandered down to ice-level and interviewed Channel 12 sports guy Jeff Taylor. The sides of the rink were ringed with advertisements from “ice-” or “deep freeze-” themed products, like Icehouse Beer, Walt Disney, et cetera. We stared through the glass while, inches away, players slammed into the boards and began wrestling and biting each other. It looked like the shark cage in the Baltimore Aquarium, except the sharks wore uniforms, had legs and knew how to ice skate. Taylor remarked about how violent it was – not the players, but drunken fans, who had (True Fact!) threatened to plug certain of his bodily orifices with his video camera. Paul nodded in agreement, then grabbed an elderly usher and punched her in the face.
The Renegades work hard to keep the spectators amused during the 20-minute intermissions, because otherwise the fans would go sack and burn the city. So while players had their limbs reattached in the locker room, the Colorful, Whimsical, Theoretically-Amusing Mascots skated out onto the ice. Paul’s favorite was “Sport,” which looks like a carnivorous version of Big Bird. Its primary purpose was to dance around amusingly, and give children horrible nightmares. Jeff’s favorite was “Zamboni Driver,” who is, incidentally, one half of the Richmond Snow Removal Road Crew. The mascots skated out again and hurled free frisbees and beer bottles.
The mascots left and a little girl came out to figure skate to “Swan Lake” or “Funky Town” or something. After a few minutes of politely graceful swoops and turns, she fell down and exploded, which earned great applause. Then, a small radio-controlled blimp descended from the rafters and flew around, while fans happily tried to shoot it down with blow darts.
During the second intermission, two Pee-Wee League hockey teams skated out onto the ice, looking like eighth-grade football teams, but much less graceful. They played for six minutes, and all the goals were scored by one really big kid who just hurled the other kids out of his way. It was refreshing to see the childrens’ enthusiastic smiles and hear their tiny skulls cracking like walnuts. After the game, the winning team celebrated by (True Fact!) beating the crap out of the mascot.
When the game resumed, two Renegades collided, sending bone shards everywhere. Many fans to rose to their feet in sincere concern over which team had the puck. With five minutes left in the game, the score was tied and some fans began to get nervous. In the Eastern Coast Hockey League, if a game ends in a tie, its victor is decided by a “shoot-out,” where members of both teams line up and spray the audience with bullets. It never accomplishes anything, but it gives the survivors something extra to cheer about.
By this point, the players has lost interest in the puck and had taken to swinging their sticks exclusively at each others’ shins. One player argued a call, and two referees held him down while the timekeeper pulled his last three teeth out with pliers. A vendor, yelling “Get-yer-ice-cold-hot-dogs,” leaped into the penalty box and began bludgeoning Checkers players with his payload of Reprocessed Bun-Encased Meat-Ish Products. Fans in the balcony celebrated the scoring of a goal by heaving live Cub Scouts on to the ice. Then, at the buzzer, a fat guy with an air horn spontaneously combusted, setting off an explosive chain reaction that vaporized the entire Coliseum, laying waste to several city blocks and scattering mascot-bits for miles.
This earned a large round of applause.
Well, not really. Nobody died, or was even hurt that badly, except for Jeff, who got trichinosis from one of the hot dogs. It was a good game — the ‘Gades lost 3-2 after a third-period Charlotte power-play goal — and everybody had a lot of fun.
Except for the dead Cub Scouts.