One of my favorite genres of media, especially TV or film, is the "embedded with a sports team during a competition season."
The Test, on Amazon, is also very good, if not a little propagandic, in chronicling what it’s like to play high-level cricket for Australia.
I love knowing what it’s like in the locker room, how teams prepare for games, drafts, etc.
And now, we are getting a taste of what really goes on behind closed doors in Nationwide Arena, with the Blue Jackets’ produced Behind the Battle YouTube series.
Episode 2 picks up right were Episode 1 did (which I did not recap and feel a tad too lazy to go back and watch to do so), with Jarmo and JD discussing the Cam Atkinson trade to Philadelphia.
It’s a rare look into the sausage making process of professional sports and, in this case, was highly emotional, especially knowing how much Cam loved the city of Columbus and the Jackets franchise. One of the things that stood out most to me during this scene is the discussion moments leading to the okaying of the deal is not that much different to how you might make a trade in fantasy football.
"[Voracek] makes us bigger," someone in the brain trust says.
"He makes us bigger," someone else echoes before the deal is agreed to.
The way it plays out in Episode 1 makes it clear this was far from the only conversation that was had about the deal, but the in-moment capturing of it and watching the team decide to pull the trigger was something I was surprised got the green light, but I’m glad it did.
Episode 1 was heavy on emotion: It opened in the dressing room as former head coach John Tortorella announced to the team prior to the final game of the season that his tenure in Columbus was over, the entire Matiss Kivlenieks tragedy and showcased the hiring of Brad Larsen as head coach.
It was a lot to pack in in just under 30 minutes.
Episode 2, despite how it opens, is relatively light.
Actually, I take that back. It’s exceedingly light, once the Cam trade is made.
From there, we run down the resigns from over the summer, with a focus on Zach Werenski’s and Elvis Merzlikins’, who is the man of the hour in this episode and whose extension we actually see him sign (along with is wife and his newborn).
The highlight is, by far, the media day run down. You get behind-the-scenes looks at everything from the production team making (what I assume is) in-arena promo videos of players to the more fun/humanizing videos (hearing Patrick Laine nail those Ohio towns was very funny) and even a trip into the gif machine, where Elvis learns about, and falls in love with, the "sheesh" trend.
In fact, Elvis is our lens through which media day is positioned on: He learns about "sheesh", he doesn’t really understand the concept of two truths and a lie (must be an American thing? And also, all of those players way overthought their answers) and once training camp begins, the montage takes a few extra moments on him reacting to a save he made or coming to the bench for water.
Do ya like Elvis, yet? Because the Jackets really want you to!! (It’s possible he was also the most up-for camera time player, but still. A lot of love for him in this one.)
After our media day extravaganza, we get a look at the building and nearing-completion of the new Blue Jackets locker room and amenities, as well as a breakdown of what all is coming next. Earlier in the episode, we hear Jarmo talk during a press conference saying that to reputation of stars not wanting to stay in Columbus just isn’t true, but having that sound bite and this little section seems…unequal.
But, regardless, the players are very excited and we even get a little insight into the Sweden/Finland sauna rivalry. I’d like to learn more about that, please.
As opening night approaches, we get the obligatory "You made it, kid" scene with Cole Sillinger, as Jarmo and Larsen tell him he’s made the opening night roster and give him some encouragement to not let up. This scene was less emotional than I thought it would have been: It actually led me to believe Silly thought his performance in Traverse and at camp was good enough to land him in the league and he’s been proven (mostly) right so far this season.
We end on a positive pep talk post practice one day from Larsen, about how he’s hearing from those outside of camp how they like how the Jackets have looked. Will that carry on into the regular season*? Tune in next time!
(*Only if they aren’t playing Carolina.)