Documentary Review: Chasing Ghosts: Beyond the Arcade (2007)

Release Date: January 22nd, 2007 (Sundance)
Directed by: Lincoln Ruchti
Cast: various

Men At Work Pictures LLC, 90 Minutes

Review:

After revisiting The King of Kong for the first time in years, I wanted to also revisit this, as it’s a very similar documentary that came out just before that more famous one.

While this isn’t the near masterpiece that The King of Kong is, it ties directly to it and its story and frankly, this plays like a prelude or a setup to that movie.

This goes through the history of arcade gaming and also covers the legends that rose up in the early days, their records, their effect on pop culture, as well as the creation of Twin Galaxies, the organization that records and maintains world records in arcade gaming. I believe they also keep records for console and PC gaming but it’s the arcade side of things that inspired them to exist in the first place.

There is a lot in this documentary about Billy Mitchell, who was pretty much the villain in The King of Kong story. It also features nearly all of the key people and legends that played a part in that film.

While this isn’t as good as The King of Kong it does feel like a necessary companion piece to it, allowing the viewer to have a deeper, richer experience in getting to know these people and their interesting, competitive and sometimes cutthroat subculture.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: The King of Kong, which this truly plays as a preface to.

Retro Relapse: The Impact of Goonery On the Modern Game

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Written in 2016.

At this point, everyone should be aware of the Dennis Wideman incident from the other night.

If you aren’t, in a nutshell, he took a hard hit, which was missed by the refs. He responded by violently knocking down linesman Don Henderson. Now while Wideman says it wasn’t intentional, the video evidence is pretty damning. And whether or not he was dazed and meant to hit an opposing player, he still struck a referee and it was still a massive illegal hit even if he did strike a player.

Between this incident by the Calgary Flames, often times aggressive, defenseman and the recent sucker punch thrown by the Los Angeles Kings’ Milan Lucic, which also hit a ref, there has been a recent trend of Slap Shot style goonery.

The thing is, Slap Shot is a slapstick comedy movie and it is also about 40 years old. The NHL isn’t a backyard wrestling federation and has evolved significantly since those days. But some players still seem to draw inspiration from the fictional Hanson Bros. and the Charlestown Chiefs.

And sure, all the hockey purists, myself included, love a certain level of aggression in the sport. I will always defend fighting as part of the sport’s tradition and heritage. I’ve also seen the negative effects of what happens when you don’t allow fighting in hockey by witnessing ridiculous hits in the college and junior levels of the game where players have no real outlet to blow off steam other than smashing a guy into the boards more violently than necessary.

That is the point of fighting. It is to blow off steam or to let two men on the ice settle their beef with a bit of gentlemanly fisticuffs instead of an all out war on the human bodies of everyone in their vicinity.

At the end of the day, however, you never, ever hit an official.

But everything I am saying here is agreed upon by most, except for Neanderthals and pacifists.

I fully support the hefty suspension on Wideman and I think most people do. In fact, I may even say that it is too light. But that is up to the League to decide and they have.

If the NHL doesn’t make examples out of guys like Wideman and Lucic, things like this will become more commonplace. If that were to happen, there’d be a lot more push back by those opposed to hockey violence. More of these situations would add credibility to their argument. And even though these incidents aren’t true examples of what fighting in hockey is, it won’t matter. If the game is perceived as too violent, it is only a matter of time before the NHL has to crackdown.

If the NHL does feel as if its hand is forced to crackdown, we are looking at a league without fighting or a very diet form of fighting. The effects of that will create more violence in how the game is played on the ice. There will be harder hits and more injuries. This will have a bigger negative impact on the sport and be truly counterproductive to the solution pushed forward by those with these biases and criticisms. It’s like politics, some big change is born with good intentions but finds itself plagued by unintended consequences. Although, it doesn’t take a genius to see the writing on the wall.

The game is already evolving away from fighting anyway. I think it will always exist, to a degree, unless it is completely banned. But the old school giant goon of yesteryear is having a much harder time finding a job in the modern NHL. Teams would rather fill their rosters spots with snipers and d-men that can actually play defense. Also, the game is getting faster each year and big thugs can’t keep up with the action. And all this is reflected in the fact that fights have been decreasing each year.

Unfortunate things happen in hockey but it’s the same in all sports. Regardless, if it is caused by a few knuckleheaded individuals doesn’t matter to the busybodies. And that is why examples have to be made.

I just hope other players learn from incidents like these and have more respect for the game, their livelihood, the players and the officials on the ice.

Retro Relapse: Making ‘May Madness’ A Thing

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Written in 2015.

May Madness! Or should it be June Madness? Or maybe May-to-June Madness, as it plays out in two different months? Well, it starts at the end of May and goes into the end of June, so most games are played in June.

Regardless of what to officially call it, I love the NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament, which culminates into the College World Series. In fact, I love it in the same way that I love March Madness a.k.a. the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament (I like the Women’s one too and the NIT Tournament).

The thing is, every time March rolls around, people all over America print their brackets, fill them out and duke it out with their friends over who knows the sport best. Truthfully, most people only watch the sport during March Madness and really don’t know as much as they think they do. But that is the cool thing about it, playing some stupid bracket game sparks a lot of interest in college basketball: ratings soar and everyone is glued to the television come Final Four time. College baseball could certainly use a similar spark and people could use some good summertime fun.

The thing that makes March Madness so exciting is the insane amount of teams that are in the tournament. College baseball is similar in that there are 64 teams in their tournament (out of 298 Division I programs), the same amount as the basketball tournament before they expanded it to 68 just a few years ago (a change I still don’t get). Additionally, like the basketball tournament, the conference winners get automatic bids and the rest of the field is selected by an NCAA committee.

However, there are a few things that make the baseball tournament different than the basketball tournament.

In March Madness, the basketball teams play in a “one and done” scenario. You lose once, you’re out of the tournament and that’s it. In the baseball tournament, it is a bit more complicated although more interesting.

In college baseball, teams don’t find themselves in a “one and done” situation. They are divided into sixteen regional brackets with a double-elimination format. Regional champions then face each other in eight Super Regionals. The eight winners of those contests then go on to be the participants in the College World Series, which is essentially baseball’s version of basketball’s Final Four, except there are eight teams instead of four.

In the College World Series, teams are split into two groups of four and play a double-elimination format. When it gets down to the final four teams, they play in a best of three series in the semifinals and finals.

It is harder for the average Joe to follow but those of us who follow collegiate baseball, don’t find it that difficult and like the fact that it is a more complex playoff system. Although, it isn’t perfect and for the betterment of the sport, I’m not opposed to some changes to make it more accessible to the masses. Besides, with more accessibility comes more viewership and hopefully, a lot more excitement which will only better the sport of baseball at the collegiate level.

The “one and done” style of college basketball and the large number of participants is what makes it really unpredictable and exciting. Upsets happen on a pretty frequent basis but no one seems to have a problem with the system, as it is. Well, the vast majority of people, anyway.

College baseball could benefit from getting rid of the double-elimination format and go for a straight up 64 team bracket. However, to make it more balanced to what currently exists, I would propose making each round a best of three series, which would still require a double-elimination (or two-loss) scenario.

Where this would make May Madness more exciting than March Madness is that people filling out their brackets could have the option of picking the winner and the amount of games played – a good way to determine tiebreakers.

I’d also like to see the baseball Final Four expand to at least a best of five series: seven would be better.

I’m just a fan of college baseball and a fan of March Madness and think that the energy surrounding the NCAA Basketball Tournament could carry over to another great sport with a similar playoff system already in play. Besides, it’s not like you can do this with college football, which just started a playoff system that is only comprised of four teams. And I love NCAA hockey but they don’t have enough teams to have anything bigger than a sixteen team tournament.

College baseball is the only thing that could provide the world with a proper spin-off of the mega successful March Madness monster. Besides, what else is going on in sports this time of year? Football, hockey and basketball are in their off season and Major League Baseball is in the long drawn out middle of their regular season: gearing up for a joke of an All-Star Game.

Well, I guess I’ll watch the third and final game of the College World Series tonight and continue to dream of a sport that could grow much larger and potentially open the doors of bracketology pandemonium during the summer.

Book Review: ‘Florida Mat Wars 1977’ by Robert D. VanKavelaar & Scott Teal

At this point, many of you know that I grew up in Florida and witnessed Championship Wrestling From Florida live and in-person, as a kid in the ’80s. My earliest and some of my fondest wrestling memories came from this great promotion.

That being said, I like to read every book that has ties or stories to the company. Since I wasn’t alive in 1977, I found this one particularly interesting, as it chronicles a full year in the company before I was born.

However, 1977 was also an incredible year where CWF was packed full of immense prime time level talent.

This book is a collection of photos, newspaper articles and promotional advertisements of every event the company held in the State of Florida that year.

By looking through this, the year takes shape as you see rivalries form, feuds ignite and what came next for the wrestlers involved. Also, I liked seeing where all these events took place, as I could pinpoint ones that I knew my father and my uncles would have gone to live.

This is just a really cool book to own and to thumb through if you’re a fan of the promotion and wrestling history in general.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: other books on the history of the old school territory wrestling business, as well as biographies on the personalities who lived it.

Retro Relapse: Fighting In Hockey

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Written in 2014.

There are a lot of busybody nobodies out there bitching about fighting in hockey. I get it though, we live in a much softer and politically correct society than generations prior.

However, in our neutered societal state, hockey is a safe haven, where men are still men (except Sidney Crosby) and we can find solace in the fact that some things never change and that if you start trouble, someone will be there to punch you in the face. It is called retaliation and it is a major part of hockey.

Now there are a lot of good arguments out there for the banishment of ending fighting in hockey and I get a lot of the points made. I understand that concussions are horrible, especially in the long-term and if a player receives multiple. I also understand that a player can have a longer career, if he isn’t getting his teeth knocked out. Additionally, hockey players would have better smiles. There are plenty of realistic negatives that can happen to a human body that gets pummeled on a regular basis.

Many of these people though, are the same people who want to ban boxing and mixed martial arts. Some of them even think that American football is too dangerous for the athletes that participate.

Here’s the thing. These athletes are adults. These adults know the risk of the sport that they play. They still decide to play these sports anyway. Sure, one could point to them being motivated by seven-to-eight figure salaries but the fact of the matter is, you have to be one of the best in the world to earn yourself that millionaire status. So what does that say about the millions of athletes who participate in these sports that never make it? They certainly aren’t getting pummeled for huge contracts.

These critics of fighting in hockey are missing the point. For the most part, these men are tough as nails and they certainly don’t need a bunch of pansies who never played the game speaking for them. They are adults that make their own adult decisions. Again, they know the risks and they still play. That is their choice. If you find hockey too dangerous, don’t play it. If you find it too “barbaric” to watch, then don’t watch it. These men don’t need nannies and would probably punch one in the face.

This isn’t some alpha male rant, this is reality. And the reality of this situation is that fighting is ingrained in hockey culture. It is a part of the sport, an important part.

Yes, you could argue that the game would be better if it were more of a skills showcase than a land of thugs but those who make that argument apparently don’t watch the sport. For the most part, each game is a showcase of elite skill and prowess on the ice. There is more finesse in the game today than there has ever been. However, there is still that fighting element that exists because in the heat of battle, it is necessary. Is it a land of thugs? Certainly not.

A hockey enforcer (or goon, as many call them) is the sport’s version of the retaliatory pitch in baseball. And like in baseball, it is employed to send a message and to protect the team’s star players. It shouldn’t be used to intentionally hurt or maim another player and for the most part, it doesn’t. Things can get out of hand, in hockey and in baseball, but in this day and age, fines, suspensions and other punishments are handed out pretty quickly when a player crosses that line. There are checks and balances in the system.

People can get hurt pretty badly in a hockey fight, as they can with a retaliatory pitch, but serious injuries aren’t as common as the sensationalist sports media would like you to assume. Players can also get hurt pretty bad just falling on the ice or hitting the boards. Are you going to remove the ice and boards too? Maybe they’ll just play field hockey on a field made out of pillows, sticks made out of pool noodles and a lemon as a puck.

This growing anti-fighting coalition wants to constantly point out how barbaric humans are, especially men. It shares and promotes similar ideas that have been espoused by those embracing extreme feminism. You know, those people out there who see manliness as a sort of primal Neanderthalism that has no place in our prissy modern world.

What this faulty idealism fails to realize and accept is that men (and all humans, actually) need to work out their aggression and angst in a healthy way. When the hunter-gatherer way of life ended, men needed new ways to express their manliness and feel bad ass. Thus came sports, which weren’t just games but physical competitions against one another to see who was the best and the king of the tribe.

Many can point to ancient gladiatorial sports and their bloodshed but we have evolved way passed that. Besides, men were usually forced to fight each other and didn’t participate in those gladiator games voluntarily. Many were slaves or captured enemies forcibly thrown to the lions for the entertainment of their captors.

Hockey is not that same sort of barbarism and shouldn’t be compared to it. Yet that is one of the most common arguments, as those criticizing the sport’s violence like to paint a picture of men, who they perceive as victims of an outdated barbaric system, being sacrificed for the entertainment of the savage-hearted spectator. When you really look at this argument, it is bullshit.

Unfortunately, we live in a very reactionary world and if a player were to get hit and killed, whether from a punch or a hard smack to the ice or the boards, the nanny police will come out in full force, the media will provide them their soapbox and the sport will probably be forced to ban fighting. While I hope this never happens and I never want to see a player get hurt, especially killed, I could see this happening.

In the end, banning fighting in hockey would kill the spirit of the sport and probably cause more problems on the ice than what people perceive there to be now. There is a reason for an enforcer and retaliation. Without it, you open the door to greater danger and a dirtier game.

More of this, please: