The Entire History of Your Hockey Team

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Now feels like the right time to get some thoughts on the record about the Senators, this being the occasion of their 25th anniversary, and while we still have the luxury of thinking about things like hockey now that all bets are off, society-wise.

If you’ve been to a game in this new year, this promising new year in which no one you love will die, get injured, or vote, you’ve already seen the Senators starting to roll out the 25th anniversary razzmatazz, like the XXV logo at centre ice, or the pre-game ice lasers that make the playing surface look like the dirt floor of an ancient arena, or the bubbling magma of an angry volcano, or pretty much anything else that isn’t located downtown. And predictably, some of us are already rolling our eyes at it all, asking if this team is ever going to hire some actual marketing and design people, what with that XXV logo looking like something designed for an off-brand wrestling championship, or a sad Super Bowl where the players are too hungry to hit each other. Although if you talk any mess about the pre-game ice lasers, you can meet me in Lot 9.

Just as predictably, though, some of us are also rolling our eyes at the idea that the Senators, at 25, even have history, like treating Chris Neil’s 1000th game with the pomp of a royal wedding is a waste of flowers, or projecting giant Sylvain Turgeon highlights across the rink is somehow a waste of lasers. This bothers me. Sure, the Senators’ 25-year history has mostly been nasty, brutish, and short, but all history has to start somewhere, and that’s usually somewhere mediocre. It’s not like the Habs or Leafs had tons to celebrate during their pre-game ceremonies at equivalent points in their history, and anyway, 1930s laser shows were often underpowered and terribly out of focus.

Besides, what point in the Senators’ 25 years is officially legitimate enough to start celebrating the actual making of history? Are you of those people who thinks the team was bad until 1997, or one of the ones who thinks they were bad until 2003, or one of the ones who thinks they’ve always been bad, but for a brief period in the mid-2000s before you discovered analytics?

Sure, we can all agree on Daniel Alfredsson. His retirement ceremony was the kind of generational, capital-H History moment worth celebrating and reflecting upon. But these moments are generational for a reason, and they only work within the larger context of time and its inevitable failures, when they can be the kind of moments where the camera pulls back and we finally see the shape of this thing we’ve been building all these years. History doesn’t mean success; history is the context you need to understand what success looks like. It’s your first apartment that had no heat; it’s that year you spent working the grill at Wendy’s with dogs following you home even after you changed your clothes; it’s Sylvain Turgeon and Senagoth jerseys and first-round matchups with the Leafs.

Other than the Senators, do you know which teams have histories that are mostly comprised of season-ending losses? All of them. You can’t pretend those moments aren’t worth remembering any more than you can pretend they were victories, or that you could go to a Senators game in the 90s and hear Slowdive instead of John Denver. It happened. So don’t begrudge the Senators for looking back a little after 25 years, and heck, maybe have some fun with it? I mean, sure, I hope one day the Senators are successful enough that those of us at the games are all rich enough to ignore them. Until then, it’s still worth remembering how far we’ve come, ideally with lasers.

The Hater’s Guide to Week 27

This is a weekly feature that takes an uncharitable look at the Senators’ upcoming opponents.

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From failing hands, we sexualize this defenseless animal.

There are two ways the hater’s season ends: in celebration, arms raised high, cursing and mocking your bitter, petty rivals after your inevitable triumph; or staggering toward death, arms clutching the multitude of stab wounds inflicted by your bitter, petty rivals, still cursing and mocking them until your final breath. Like the end of Macbeth, maybe. But either way it ends, not on their terms, but on yours.

Tuesday, April 5 – Senators vs. Penguins

The Penguins are going to the playoffs, in part because they fired their coach in December after a few months of underwhelming performance and the new guy had no choice but to take the brakes off the team’s firewagon offense and trust that their skill would more than make up for their occasional mistakes. If this sounds familiar, it’s because the Senators did it first, last year, and as usual the Penguins are just a sour-faced bunch of no-account copycats. Good luck next year, Pens, when your coach starts feeling himself and telling everyone that Ben Lovejoy is his ideal defenseman.

Some say that Penguins captain Sidney Crosby – you know, the guy whose personality reasonably answers the question, “What if you could teach a piece of toast to play hockey? – is a dark horse MVP candidate, having led the league in points since the All-Star break to lift his team back into the playoff race. This gives him all of three points more on the season than Erik Karlsson, who may be in danger of losing a lesser positional award to a guy who looks like a bewildered Guy Fawkes mask. I guess what I’m saying is awards are obviously vitally important.

PREDICTION: Pittsburgh and Ottawa have settled their playoff fates, so look for players on both teams to target individual milestones; expect Mika Zibanejad and Mike Hoffman to score their 20th and 30th goals, respectively, for Erik Karlsson to assist on all of them, and for him to eventually refer to the 2015-16 season, Norris or not, as “The Season I Outscored Sidney Friggin Crosby”. Friggin, of course, is a type of dry Swedish rye toast, and great with herring. Look for Phil Kessel to show up with Arby’s sauce on his helmet. Senators 5, Penguins 0.

Thursday, April 7 – Senators vs. Panthers

The Panthers are also going to the playoffs, as likely Atlantic Division champions, no less, with a zesty mix of Golden Girlsaged players and a scenery-chewing Kevin Spacey as their unofficial mascot. This sounds terrible on paper, and it is in real life as well. They will also probably get the Islanders in the first round, in a matchup that in the not-too-distant past would have been considered “insipid”. Also today.

It’s worth noting that the Panthers have only made the playoffs one other time in the last 15 years, so expect Panthers fans with little playoff experience to have a lot of questions when Game 1 rolls around, questions like, “Where is the rink?” and “How do I get there?” Bear with them, because this is how the good people of Sunrise, FL become hockey fans for the rest of their lives. Most of them are already over 65, though, so better get cracking on that Cup run, Cats.

PREDICTION: This is the last home game of the year for the Senators, and likely the last game in Ottawa for at least a few players/head coaches on the roster, so look for the Senators to come out strong. It’s also Fan Appreciation Night, which means you can expect giveaways, discounts, and a variety of other diversions that appeal to fans, including meet-and-greets with Daniel Alfredsson, scoreboard videos of Erik Karlsson with cute animals, and the ongoing Idea of Patrick Wiercioch. Senators 5, Panthers 0.

Saturday, April 9 – Senators @ Bruins

And last/least, there’s the Boston… Friggin (usually sold nearly the canned seafood in the deli section, BTW)… Bruins. These black-and-yellow dirtbags are in a dogfight with the nauseatingly orange Flyers and the tediously Red Wings for the last two spots in the east, so one of the three will be cleaning out their lockers after this weekend. We talked last week about the merits of eliminating either the Flyers or the Red Wings, but why not the Bruins? Remember how much fun it was last year, overtaking the Bruins in the season’s final two weeks and muscling them out of the Wild Card? Remember every game a bullied Senators team lost 7-2 to the Bruins over the years? Remember how bad DiCaprio’s accent was in The Departed? Boston, man.

Besides, Boston doesn’t really need the Bruins to make the playoffs right now. They have a Stanley Cup from a year that starts with a 2, so rather than thinking about hockey in June, Bostonians’ thoughts are already turning to summer activities, like complaining about the Red Sox, or projectile vomiting outside the OTB, or taking the sloop up to Kennebunkport, or whatever the hell it is people do in Boston. Your summer can start next week, Bruins fans. Just let go and let the Senators do what needs to be done, what you secretly hope they’ll do so that you can stop watching hockey, get out your Chieftains tapes, your switchblade, and your chowder mug, and start making some summer memories. Let’s step-dance, Boston.

PREDICTION: Sometimes a year doesn’t go the way you planned, and there are parts of it where you probably could have tried harder, and other parts that made you wonder why you ever thought things would work in the first place, but there are also a few things you’re proud of, and a few moments that people will hopefully remember, and that’s all you were ever really chasing in the first place. Thanks for reading. Senators 5, Bruins 0.

Season prediction record: 36-34-9

Exact score prediction record: 1-78 (HAHAHAHA GET BENT MONTREAL)

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The Hater’s Guide to Week 26

This is a weekly feature that takes an uncharitable look at the Senators’ upcoming opponents.

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The Hockey Sweater reboot no one asked for

Wednesday, March 30 – Senators @ Jets

It’s almost April, you’re almost out of it, you’ve shut down half your roster with the kind of injuries that are only suffered by non-playoff teams . . . even the most dedicated hater packs it in at that point, right? But that’s where you’re so wrong, idiot. After all, no season, even a losing one, is truly over until you’ve had a chance to spoil the aspirations of other, more successful competitors. God doesn’t close a hater’s door without opening a window through which that hater gonna continue hating.

First up this week is the Winnipeg Jets . . . who I’m being told were eliminated from the playoff hunt last week. So unfortunately there’s nothing to spoil here, as the Jets have already curdled like milk on a hot Winnipeg sidewalk. Don’t forget that the Jets, a playoff team last year, didn’t make any major roster improvements going into this season, believing that their core would continue to consolidate and their young players would continue taking steps forward. Come on, when does that actually work? My informed suggestion for the Jets is that they spend the offseason getting rid of all their players for better ones.

PREDICTION: But wait, you’re saying. As the last Canadian team standing, surely it is the Jets who will be looking to spoil things for the Senators. Yes, probably. But they won’t. Look for Andrew Hammond to let in negative goals. How will he do that, you’re asking. Well, he’ll get a shutout, and also score one, I guess. Okay, you’re saying, so that might mean he’s directly responsible for a positive goal differential, but that’s not the same as allowing negative goals; you can’t actually allow negative goals. Right, I tell you, I’m just trying to turn a phrase here, and anyway, directionally, the effect is equivalent, isn’t it? Yes, but it’s a false equivalency, you respond. “A false equivalency,” I repeat to you in a mocking, sing-song voice. Senators 5, Jets 0.

Thursday, March 31 – Senators @ Wild

Ah, here we go, a team still in the playoff hunt. The Minnesota Wild, a team that 15 years post-expansion still has a name and uniforms like a fake hockey team in a Rob Schneider movie – let’s say one where he’s a down-on-his-luck dog groomer who accidentally kills his local team’s starting goaltender with a pair of clippers while trying to trim the guy’s standoffish Bichon Frise, and has to cover it up by putting on a mask, faking a semi-racist French accent, and leading the “Minnesota Wild” to the “Stanfield Cup” while also convincing his estranged teen daughter he’s still a good dad – are hanging on to the last Wild Card spot in the Western Conference, five points ahead of the “Colorado Avalanche” with five games to play. I had to look that up, but let’s be honest – you hadn’t even heard of either of those teams until I told you just now.

On the face of things, it looks like the Wild have a pretty good shot at making the postseason so they can lose to the Blackhawks for a fourth year in a row. But you know all those things people make fun of the Senators for? The Wild have done them even more embarrassingly. You know how the Senators drafted Alexandre Daigle and paid him too much money? The Wild gave him another job after he ran out. You know how the Senators fly Stanley Cup banners that weren’t won by the modern franchise? The Wild retired the number 1, in honour of their fans, before they’d played a single home game. Good luck signing Ray Emery, guys. You know how the Senators play way west of town? The Wild play all the way out in the Central Time Zone. They are a cheap photocopy of an unflattering picture of a better franchise, and they will lose this game.

PREDICTION: The outcome here is a foregone conclusion, so rather than predict the details, let me tell you why Bryan Murray made the Shane Prince trade. He made it in anticipation of this game in Minneapolis. He made it because Prince, the musician, shows up at Wild games from time to time – he has his own purple velvet box – and after watching the Senators embarrass the Wild at home, he’s going to find Murray after the game and say something dramatic like, “I see you’ve lost a Prince. Well tonight, you gain another.” And then he’ll buy Milan Michalek’s house (a man who’s no stranger to purple, BTW)  in the offseason, replace the Senators’ in-game organist, and spend every play stoppage ripping off guitar solos which continue well after the puck is dropped. The Senators will win every game in this environment, and it will start with this one. Senators 5, Wild 0.

Saturday, April 2 – Senators @ Flyers

This is a tough one. On the one hand, we all hate the Flyers, right? Philadelphia has made a late-season rally to get into playoff position, and would anything be sweeter than if the Senators, the team that made the run of all runs last season, were also the team to truly spoil things for the Flyers this year, just to highlight how unique their run last season really was? On the other hand, the Flyers making the playoffs most likely means an end to one of the most celebrated boring records in sports, that being the Detroit Red Wings’ 24-year playoff streak. And who doesn’t hate the Red Wings? Nobody, that’s who.

So the real question is whose season is best spoiled? The answer in this case is the Detroit Red Wings. And maybe a year off will do you some good, Detroit. More time to travel, to have a few new experiences, to develop more personality. Come back as something other than a consistent, dishwater-dull hockey team where everybody has the same haircut. Missing the playoffs isn’t the end of the world, Detroit. It instills a hunger in you, deep down, the kind of hunger where you tell yourself you’ll do anything it takes to get back to where you were, even if you only barely scrape back there, no matter what it costs. Hey, have you guys thought about trading for a veteran defenseman?

PREDICTION: Look for the Senators, in their wisdom, to ignore me and exert their influence over only those matters that are within their control. Senators 5, Flyers 0.

Season prediction record: 34-33-9

Next week: We cross the finish line, unbowed, unbroken.

The Hater’s Guide to Week 25

This is a weekly feature that takes an uncharitable look at the Senators’ upcoming opponents.

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Sadly more than any V-shaped belly could promise this year.

 

It’s round 3 of “Guys who were worse after leaving the Senators for one of this week’s opponents!” What are we waiting for?

Tuesday, March 22 – Senators vs. Capitals

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Chris Phillips and Joe Corvo stare into the middle distance.

Senators: 127 GP, 14 G, 50 A, 0.50 PPG
Capitals: 18 GP, 2 G, 4 A, 0.33 PPG
Senators again: 25 GP, 3 G, 7 A, 0.40 PPG

PREDICTION: No Eastern Conference team has won both the President’s Trophy and the Stanley Cup in over 20 years. Will the Capitals break the streak? No. Look for the Senators to rout the resting Caps and for the Sun to have a headline like “PREZ CANDIDATE FELLED BY DZINGEL GUNMAN” the next day. Senators 5, Capitals 0.

Wednesday, March 23 – Senators @ Islanders

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Chris Phillips asks Shane Prince to hit him.

Senators: 44 GP, 3 G, 10 A, 0.30 PPG
Islanders: 10 GP, 1 G, 0 A, 0.10 PPG

PREDICTION: Look for an 18-year-old forward to be drafted by the Senators with the Islanders’ third-round pick after scoring a hat trick the OHL playoffs this week, and for you to quickly talk yourself into his potential. Look for Shane Prince to take 12 shifts Wednesday and finish -2. Senators 5, Islanders 0.

Saturday, March 26 – Senators vs. Ducks

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Chris Phillips shows Jakob Silfverberg what a real beard looks like.

Senators: 48 GP, 0.40 PPG, $900K AAV
Ducks: 204 GP, 0.45 PPG, $3.75M AAV

PREDICTION: Bobby Ryan has 4 points in 5 career games against the Ducks; Jakob Silfverberg has 2 points in 5 careeer games against the Senators, which is ironic given that Silfverberg isn’t half the player Ryan is. Look for Ryan to make this ratio a little more accurate by scoring 42 goals Saturday, and for Silfverberg to continue to resemble one of the guys in Aqua. Senators 5, Ducks 0.

Season prediction record: 34-31-8

Next week: A WILD Sens road trip will mean they’ll be travelling on JETS, which I guess makes them FLYERS. Look, this is not my real job.

The Hater’s Guide to Week 24

This is a weekly feature that takes an uncharitable look at the Senators’ upcoming opponents.

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Me, riding with a deep crew (not pictured: you, spilling Oil Changers coffee on your pleated khakis)

Tuesday, March 15 – Senators vs. Wild

PREDICTION: Senators 5, Wild 0.

Thursday, March 17 – Senators @ Sabres

PREDICTION: Senators 5, Sabres 0.

Saturday, March 19 – Senators vs. Canadiens

PREDICTION: Senators 5, Canadiens 0.

Season prediction record: 32-30-8

Next week: Shane Prince seeks revenge on his former team, and he’s only got 11 minutes to do it.

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The Hater’s Guide to Week 23

This is a weekly feature that takes an uncharitable look at the Senators’ upcoming opponents.

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Me, out here (not pictured: you, in there)

Watching this week’s game with an opposing fan? Here are some talking points you can use to EVISCERATE them and their team. And keep those cards and letters coming!

Tuesday, March 8 – Senators @ Hurricanes

  • “The Hurricanes were even with the Senators at the trade deadline and decided to sell! Talk about a bunch of quitters!”
  • “What kind of team trades their captain? He must have been terrible!”
  • “What are you going to do with all those draft picks, anyway? You have more picks than you have spots on your roster! What a waste.”

PREDICTION: Look for the Senators to keep their slim playoff hopes alive with a convincing performance. Senators 5, Hurricanes 0.

Thursday, March 10 – Senators @ Panthers

  • “Lead the division all you want; anything can happen in the playoffs.”
  • “Jagr is 44 and has 21 goals; Zack Smith is 27 and has 18. I’ll take Smith and those next 17 years, thank you very much.”
  • “More like Ek-BAD. More like Bjugs-BAD. More like BAD-branson. Ha, nice.”

PREDICTION: Look for the Senators to keep their modest playoff hopes alive with a authoritative performance. Senators 5, Panthers 0.

Saturday, March 12 – Senators vs. Maple Leafs

  • “You guys are so dumb you’re paying Jared Cowen NOT to play!”
  • “If Phaneuf isn’t a leader, how come he’s already got Borowiecki’s A?”
  • “Rebuild? The only difference is now you’re losing on purpose! What are you going to do with all those draft picks, anyway?”

PREDICTION: Look for the Senators to keep their growing playoff hopes alive with a dominating performance. Senators 5, Leafs 0.

Season prediction record: 31-29-7

Next week: We say goodbye to the Habs the traditional way – from above, laughing.

The Hater’s Guide to Week 22

This is a weekly feature that takes an uncharitable look at the Senators’ upcoming opponents.

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Me, only needing one mic (not pictured: you, rocking that mic like a vandal)

It’s deadline day! And with four teams on deck this week, all of whom the Senators have already been linked with in trade rumors, let’s forecast what might happen! Might? Will! All of these deals WILL happen!

Tuesday, March 1 – Senators vs. Blues

Word is that Blues scouts have been following the Sens around for weeks, ostensibly looking for playoff depth. Time was, the Senators were allegedly interested in Patrik Berglund, who is basically Zack Smith if he were Swedish and more expensive. It sounds like Zack Smith is going to remain the Senators’ Zack Smith for the foreseeable future, though, which means a deal for Berglund is probably off the affordable, flat-packed table. Then there’s defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who seems to be perpetually linked to teams that need defensemen, although the Senators just traded for the last defenseman they’ll ever need. So who’s left to trade for from St. Louis? Draft picks, probably – players that haven’t even been born. What do you give up for that? Patrick Wiercioch? Sure.

PREDICTION: I would imagine it’s awkward being traded to a team that’s playing in your own rink the next night. You come to work like you normally do, go up to the press box like you normally do, but then you sit on the other side. Pretending the CTC nachos taste the same in that situation is the mark of a true professional. Look for St. Louis native Chris Wideman to offer Wiercioch a few suggestions on up-and-coming neighborhoods. Senators 5, Blues 0.

Thursday, March 3 – Senators vs. Lightning

Jonathan Drouin! This trade saga has gone on longer than a Lord of the Rings movie! This guy has been on the market longer than a four-bedroom house in Alberta! And a third, equally Jay Leno-ish reference!

For weeks, hockey pundits have been linking the Senators to disgruntled Bolts-pect Jonathan Drouin (a.k.a. Kyle LeTurris), because: a) every team is interested in Jonathan Drouin, b) the Senators leak everything they’re NOT going to do to the media, and c) the Senators are OBVIOUSLY getting Jonathan Drouin. Some say the only reason this deal hasn’t happened already is the Senators’ reluctance to include some package of Cody Ceci, Colin White, and/or Thomas Chabot (a.k.a. “value”). Thing is, Ceci was just given a $7M trust fund on his left side. Colin White, as the key piece in the Robin Lehner deal, is supposed to make Sens fans forget about Cory Conacher. And Thomas Chabot did this, once. So who’s left? Patrick Wiercioch? Stats folks will tell you he makes the defensemen playing with him look better, in part by skating like a giraffe being born. Surely the team that signed healthy scratch Erik Condra will go back to that well again. Call it in, Pierre.

PREDICTION: This is the last game the Senators will play against Tampa until the playoffs. Look for Jonathan Drouin to get on the board early, just to send a message that Tampa has a couple months to think about. Senators 5, Lightning 0.

Saturday, March 5 – Senators @ Maple Leafs

Jared Cowen’s contract, Colin Greening’s contract, Milan Michalek’s contract, plus, uh,  Tobias Lindberg and a second, for Dion Phaneuf and a bunch of minor-league guys: who says no? Just kidding, that’s ridiculous.

The Senators and Maple Leafs are probably done trading, but again, damn. Leafs fans and self-loathing Sens fans can talk about how Phaneuf is overpaid and declining, and that’s fine. For a hockey team trying to win hockey games in the next few hockey seasons, Dion Phaneuf is a far more valuable asset than Jared Cowen’s contract or Colin Greening’s contract, and if you don’t believe me, witness Jared Cowen clearing waivers this past weekend. See, Ottawa, you always could have put Cowen on waivers, just like you could have left a dented, 40-gallon water heater at the end of the driveway with a “FREE” sign on it for two days, only to watch no one pick it up and then have the city leave a pink slip on it telling you it was too big for general waste collection and that you need to take it to the Trail dump yourself. Vivid.

Is that mean? Sure. Do I think Toronto thought it was smarter than Ottawa, in that it assumed it would be able to trade Cowen’s toxic contract to a cap-strapped team in need of a credit more effectively than Ottawa could? Absolutely. Do I envy them now being stuck trying to flip that toxic potato while Ottawa has an actual second-pairing defenseman? I do not. Do I think Tobias Lindberg will come back to haunt the Senators? I’ll be honest; I have no idea who that is.

PREDICTION: This will be Phaneuf’s first game against his old team, and really, the only question is which ex-teammate he elects to punch in the face first. Lupul’s out for the year, and Kadri’s so obvious the oddsmakers have taken him off the board, so you know what? I’m going with Gardiner. First minute of the second period, two quick jabs after the whistle, and then newly-extended Chris Neil and, I dunno, Peter Holland – he still plays for the Leafs, right? – step in and sort of finish it. “Just like the old days of the Battle of Ontario!” says no one. Senators 5, Leafs, 0.

Sunday, March 6 – Senators vs. Stars

Dallas has a lot of ties with Ottawa; Valeri Nichuskin has been linked with the Senators in exchange for Patrick Wiercioch, who used to be mentored by Sergei Gonchar, who the Stars at one point signed to mentor Nichuskin. So why not bring in Wiercioch to mentor Nichuskin? Seems like giving up Nichuskin would be a fair trade for those sorts of intangibles, right? And tell me that makes less sense than anything other proposals you’ll hear today. Hey, you guys want Chiasson back? No?

PREDICTION: A typical game preview might mention Jason Spezza returning to Ottawa, and the Senators’ ongoing push for the playoffs, and blah blah blah blah blah. This is not that preview. Instead, we’re going to do some WTYKY karaoke here and defer to James’ preview rendered on the occasion of the Senators’ last game against the Stars:

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God, I love working here. Thanks for reading. Senators 5, Stars 0.

Season prediction record: 30-27-6

Next week: The Leafs, again. Just like back in the Original Six days, when you’d play the Leafs every week. You know, before entertainment was invented.