Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Counting Down the Best Lines in "Against the Odds"

As it states in my bio, one of my most noted skills is my ability to recite lines from the Stanley Cup videos produced about the Penguins (One from the Heart, Against the Odds, and even Portrait of Courage, although it pains me to do so). I’ve tried not to overload my writing with quotes from these movies because quite frankly I can get annoying with it. So to get me my fix, today I am counting down my favorite 25 quotes from “Against the Odds”, my favorite of the trilogy that I have come to know so well. The order is really unimportant, except for maybe the top 4. For the most part, they are all interchangeable, and I am sure I forgot a few gems (the whole movie is a gem, really). If you haven’t seen the movie, then try to find someone who does or, hell, contact me and maybe we can get a big viewing together.

Earl Mann is the narrator, and when I say that he does a legendary job, I don’t do him nearly enough justice. He drops some of the most absurdly poetic and over the top lines I have ever heard in my life. It really is a tour de force of spontaneous narrative genius.

You’ll see what I mean after the jump.

A few notes before we get going………..

- The writers CONSTANTLY refer to the defense as “the curtain”. You can almost tell that they thought they would market the team better if they made constant allusions to Steelers lore.
- Steigerwald eating old school popcorn at the beginning of the movie is as awkward as it is hilarious.
- Rick Kehoe’s stache is legendary.
- The fake sound effects they layer over the checking takes the movie to an unprecedented level of cinematic genius.
- The movie generally feels pretty modern…until they interview Mario and his face is consumed by the glasses he is wearing.
- Roger Nielson dons quite possibly the most ugly tie in the history of ties short of something you would find in a Halloween costume store.
- The use of the 1-4 delay against Washington revolutionized the way Sam and I played pickup soccer. We would get leads and then employ the 1-however-many-were-playing delay. If I have kids and ever coach a sport of any kind, you better believe that on Day 1 of practice we will be going over the 1-4 delay.

Three gem quotes in retrospect……………..

Howard Baldwin: …“as ownership we plan to see to it that we do this year after year after year.” That is unless I happen to bankrupt the team for 10 years.

Jaromir Jagr: “I’m so happy I can play in Pittsburgh.” But once I turn 30, get me the hell out.

Mrs. Kevin Stevens: “You never realize how much time they spend on the road, and traveling…how intense it is.” No joke here. It’s too easy and too sad.

Honorable mention quotes: “A survivor from the backalleys of Philadelphia, Tocchet’s toughness and scoring helped the Pens end the season on a 10-3-1 tear; Rick Kehoe (in a remarkable yinzer falsetto): “some years the pucks go in a little more than in others”; “The Rangers had lived by the sword…and died by it”; “For Kevin Stevens and other Penguins, the city rinks of Boston were their field of dreams (this line doesn’t even make sense but Earl still makes it sound dreamy); “The performance of Mario Lemieux in this series left hockey historians searching through their record books for any resemblance from the past…he was now skating on paths that only he could see”.

Without further ado, the interchangeable/arguable/amazing list of top 25 quotes from the film “Against the Odds”……..

25. “It’s gonna hurt the Penguins – we lost our top gun!” After Lemieux gets slashed by Graves, they ask Penguins fans what they think. In the “no shit” moment of the late millennium, this angry Pens fans smashes his fist into his hand and proclaims that it will hurt the team. So yinzer.

24. “52 years of Stanley Cup frustration was weighing the Rangers down.” This line is included just because my dad and grandpa were at the game chanting “NINE-teen FOUR-teee” and said that you could tell the Rangers knew they were doomed.

23. “Still, the word fluke accompanied the Pens wherever they went. In order to truly be considered champions, they would have to do it…again.” A great line at the end of the introduction that really kicks the movie into gear. The emphasis on “again” is tremendous – this is a staple of Earl Mann narration.

22. “Jim Paek, Grant Jennings, Gordie Roberts, Paul Stanton, and Ulf Samuellson played big time yet no name defense.” I love this line because it implies that the defense deserved a name, that it is a travesty they went unnamed and unrecognized by the national hockey media. If you think Earl is defensive of this team in the early going, just wait til we get to the Rangers series’ quotes.

21. “They faced extreme adversity, and, leaning upon one another, rose to capture hockey’s holy grail.” Just a well phrased (and corny) line.

20. “Larry Murphy is there when it counts.” If you haven’t seen the movie, this line needs explaining. After game 1 of the Cup Finals, the producers slow things down with a Larry Murphy montage, as if to say “shit, this thing is almost over and we have barely mentioned a sure-fire Hall of Famer. We better do a brief focus piece on him”. The montage ends with the above quote that is as awkward as it reads. Only it is read by Earl Mann, so it is awesome.

19. “Ahead 6-4, Jagr danced a little…and gave a two-step to Mario.” Game 4 of the Cup Finals. Jagr and Lemieux weave through defenders, and literally do dance through them as Mann suggests.

18. “Jagr took control of the puck, and turned defenseman Beukeboom into a lamp post.” Jeff Beukeboom as a lamp post…only Mann could deliver such brilliance.

17. “It was an all-Pittsburgh starting offensive unit.” Starting All-Star game front line: Lemieux, Stevens, Jagr. Trottier and Coffey also made it. You’ll never see it again, folks.

16. “They are a wondrous tapestry woven so skillfully by Craig Patrick…They have been an emotional lift, an example of how much more each of us can achieve. As fluke slips into the darkness, from a new dawn comes the sound, of dynasty.” This ridiculously over-sensational line would be in the top five…if we actually had become a dynasty…if Barrasso had stopped David V- ahhhhhh can’t go on.

15. “Troy Loney, Bob Errey, and Phil Borque showed up every night.” A simple line, but so unbelievably true of those gritty role players. The stars got much of the credit, but it is remarkable how many times these guys showed up and scored enormous goals for the team. If Talbot, Armstrong et al. wanted a crash course in how they should fill roles on the team, I would advise them to look at these three guys.

14. “Tocchet’s jaw was broken, yet he came back later in the game to score two goals.” I don’t think you will ever hear a phrase like this again in sports.

13. “Trapped, with no one to turn to, Mario the magician faked a look in the crease and banked a shot off Belfour’s leg. For those who saw the genius in the play, it is another 66 goal that will remain in the mind forever.” Vintage Earl. He’s starting to get serious folks. Watch out.

12. “But tonight’s main attraction would be Mario Lemieux leaving the game best defender in his vapor trail.” Mario abuses Ray Borque. Earl uses the phrase vapor trail. We’re just getting warmed up.

11. “All eyes were on the match-up between New York’s savior, Mark Messier, and the Pens messiah, Mario Lemieux. But the holy war…never happened.” If you thought holy wars only happened in the Middle East, then you are dead wrong. They used to happen in the Patrick Division as well.

10. “Only five minutes into game two and leading 1-0, the shot heard round the hockey world was fired.” Which was more significant: the start American Revolution or Adam Graves breaking Mario Lemieux’s hand? I would have never even considered the question if Earl Mann hadn’t brought it up.

9. “Joey Mullen…is still the first American born player to score 400 goals.” When I was in 4th grade, I wouldn’t let you be my friend unless you knew who was the first American born player to score 400 goals. I’m not kidding. Ask Sam. This was my pre-requisite for friendship.

8. “He approached every day with an enthusiasm that I’ve never seen in any human being, except for maybe small children.” Said by anyone else, this statement wouldn’t have cracked the top 25. But the fact that it was said by Tom Barrasso puts it at the 8 spot. You know that Badger Bob was a great man if even Tom Barrasso had nice things to say about him.

7. “With less than 5 minutes remaining, IT happened…(Jagr beats 37 Blackhawk defenders to tie game 1)…With absolutely no rehearsal, Mr. Clutch rode his instincts to glory.” This gets the nod because it is one of my favorite goals ever. Jagr whips his way horizontally through an onslaught of defenders and rifles a backhand past Belfour. It can’t be put into words how much Earl Mann stresses the “IT HAPPENED”. It is also hilarious think of Jagr “rehearsing” such a play.

6. These are what I call “the justice lines” from the movie. I absolutely LOVE how they turn the Rangers series into a battle of good versus unimaginable evil. We’ve already seen the series be compared to a holy war and the American Revolution, and these lines concerning “justice” further imply that the fate of the free world rested on this series. And for those of you who don’t remember, it did.
a) “It was Ron Fracnis’ curtain call…(Francis scores overtime winner in game 4, Stevens tackles him)…It was a GLOOOOOOO-rious victory. One filled…with justice.” One of my all-time favorite goals. Stevens tackling Francis is one of the top 5 goal celebrations ever. Again, the emphasis on “glorious” is otherworldly.
b) “It was an incendiary situation – Code Red. There was violent retribution in the air. The loss left many Pens fans wondering if there was any justice left in this world.” So over the top. I love it.
c) “Kocur went to the box, and justice showed its beautiful face just seconds later.” Again with the over-the-top-ness.

5. “Then, with the first pick in the 1984 draft, the Penguins selected a young French-Canadian that would raise the franchise to glory…MARIO LEMIEUX.” This scene will give me chills til the day I die. They start at Mario’s skates and pan up to his face, waiting until the very last moment to show you who the fate of the modern world rested on (as if we didn’t know). Of course you know who it is, but the anticipation will still give you chills.

4. “And when the Pens lined up for a face-off on the power play with 17 seconds remaining, the unbelievable continued…(Mario buries rebound past Belfour, Civic Arena is metaphorically lit on fire)…The Civic Arena roof must have opened, and the gods smiled down.” ThePensBlog named this the biggest goal in Pens history, and it’s hard to argue. 17.2 seconds left, tied up after being down 4-1, and somehow Belfour lets the rebound go to the most lethal offensive player the game has ever known. If I could have been in attendance at one Pens game, this would be my pick. Of course, Mann nails the moment, suggesting that the roof open and the gods smiled on Pittsburgh. Which gods, you ask? The hockey gods? Greek gods? It doesn’t matter. They all did.

3. “Back at home, Mario showed the city of Pittsburgh where this team’s killer instinct begins, Down 4-2, Mario’s guns began blazing, lifting the Penguins out of the clutches of elimination with 2 goals and 3 assists. Tonight, Washington saw his gun fighter eyes.” The verbiage here is almost as absurd as Mario’s stat line. I am not sure I even know what gun fighter eyes are, but I’m pretty sure Mario invented them. Notice how Earl uses the phrase “guns” twice in as many sentences. Glory. Justice. Gods. Guns. And you wonder why I love this movie.

2. “With the brass of a riverboat gambler, Craig Patrick pulled the trigger on another blockbuster trade.” It is really hard not to put this first – I’m pretty sure the guys at ThePensBlog would. Just an amazingly over the top line that could only come from the depths of Earl Mann’s vast vocabulary pool (or his ass). The brass of a riverboat gambler…quite possibly the greatest description that the literary world has ever known. I could write pages about this. I mean, just imagine Craig Patrick on a riverboat gambling. Ok, I’ll stop.

1. “Stevens was a war horse, with hands…of silk.” Throughout the course of my life, I don’t think I have used any phrase more frequently. I’ve used it in passing with my friends, parents, in school projects, to name fantasy teams…I pretty much have milked this quote for everything that it is worth. I’ve never heard anything so absurd/amazing/ridiculous/brilliant/baffling/inspiring than calling a forceful left winger a “war horse with hands of silk”. Who thought of this line? Were there drugs involved at this point of the script-writing? Do war horses have hands? I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a more bizarre description that perfectly described an athlete than this one. Again, I could write pages about this specific quote. A war horse with hands of silk. Geez…does it get any better than that?


Anonymous said...

Pat, nice article.
I'm looking forward to the top 25 lines from One From the Heart.

Anonymous said...

This post brought a tear to my eye. Just great. So many great lines.

I look forward to watching the DVD they make of the 2007-08 Stanley Cup Penquins. Is Earl Mann still around?

Pensblog Staff said...

unreal. unreal. unreal.

best quote of all time:

when they interview Blackhawks fans before Game 3.

"The Blackhawks have them right where they want them. They're lulling them into a sense of complacency. The comeback starts tonight. You can read about it in the papers in the morning."

Then the dude walks away like he's hard shit.

The entire scene of Game 7 against the Caps should be in a Hall of Fame somewhere.
It cuts from Game 6 in Mellon Arena to a shot of Capital fans waving towels while a pump-up song smacks you in the mouth.

"With both teams playing sound defensively, it would be a matter of one team blinking first.
With the teams tied at 1, Barrasso kept the Pens on an even keel long enough for another Capital blink."


Pensblog Staff said...

"the smooth skating of the century line."

Pat said...

Smooth skating of the century line is a greeeeeeeeeeat one. And the trust me, I was going to throw the blackhawks fans in there but I was pressed for time to get the article up before I left for the day. It just goes to show you how many amazing quotes there are in that movie. Any others I missed?

Sean said...

Nicely done!

Anonymous said...

What an outstanding piece. I must have watched this movie 100 times growing up. I must now drive 4 hours to Pittsburgh to rescue it from my parents' basement and watch it this evening.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely amazing!! I sent the link to this blog to all my friends. I can recite every line out loud. Your analysis is as good as the lines themselves! I was smiling at every one and sometimes laughing myself sick. One of my favorite blog articles I've read all year. INCREDIBLE!!

Anonymous said...

Can't wait for One From The Heart quotes. If I remember correctly there are some great quotes about Pieterangelo and "The Save."

Also the Muskeegan Line deserves mentioning.

Anonymous said...

i'm jus going by memory here, but im pretty sure in #11 Earl refers to Lemieux as the Pens' savior and Mark Messier as New York's messiah. could be wrong. either way this article was unreal, Against the Odds owned my childhood, good to know it owned someone else's.

missnittany said...

Was this gem only sold at Foodland? I seem to remember riding my bike there to get it.

And I'm crossing my fingers it's put away with my Wheaties boxes and Coca Cola cans, because it definitely needs another viewing after reading this masterpiece.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely amazing piece. I thought I was the only one that watched this video 100 times. I watch them both before each season, and the drama still slays me. Evertime I hear about Mario's gunfighter eyes or the awkward endorsement of Larry Murphy, I almost end up on the floor laughing.

The overly dramatic music when Mario's hand gets broken is classic!

Excellent quotes and even better commentary. I look forward to the review of One from the Heart!

Anonymous said...

i was literally crying I was belly laughing so hard reading this...I hope you do one for "One From the Heart" as well.

Anonymous said...

Incredible stuff.

Jay said...

is it true you are letting PensBlog count down lines from One from the Heart? I think you should atleast throw in your two cents, because this was simply fantastic.

Anonymous said...

The "brass of a riverboat gambler" should be #1 simply because Mann also used it in the video for "Greatest Moments in Western Pennsylvania Sports History" in reference to Terry Bradshaw.