My invective, by contrast, was personal and cruel, mixing the normal venom of teenage powerlessness with the vindictive delight of teenage empowerment. Bitchtits. Asswipe. Shit-guzzler. I spent a good portion of the ensuing decade playing NHL Hitz 2003 (Midway released only one additional version afterward, NHL Pro, which was largely identical), and all of it accompanied by a steady stream of vicious color commentary on my opponents’ shortcomings.
A friend in my freshman hall at college had a PlayStation 2, and a copy of Hitz. I was 18 at that point, a bundle of over-caffeinated, under-sexed anxiety, and I spent hours in his room, bringing the goddamned thunder on anyone who dared take up a controller against me. We all played Hitz, and with some real ringers in the group, I wasn't the undisputed champ anymore, but it didn't matter. I was still one of the best. Besides, I'd honed myself into a formidable pest in the mold of actual NHL players like Darius Kasparaitis or Ian Laperrière, whose relentless trash talking was so incisive as to be weaponized, forcing errors and drawing penalties from opposing teams.