So I'm dredging up a six-year-old thread because it's the closest I could find to a pertinent thread and didn't want to start a new one.
I was just prepping my FB cover photo for playoff season (can't get cooler than an admission like that, kids!), and I realized that I've never explained my avatar here. It's a pretty nifty little story.
Last year, I spent three months in Moscow. While I was there, I made a pilgrimage to the Central Army Sports Club. CSKA (the Russian acronym for it) was basically the training ground for the Soviet sports powerhouse, across a great number of sports. There were clubs and training grounds all over the USSR, of course, but Moscow's CSKA was the biggest and most important. Talented kids, often chosen by government officials, were sent to CSKA from all over the country to live and train. It encompassed all kinds of sports, outdoor and indoor, summer and winter, and its athletes had enormous success. Club teams competed under its banner both nationally and internationally. According to wikipedia, CSKA athletes have won 463 Olympic gold medals, 11,000 national championships, and 2,629 European and World titles. I can't imagine any other single club in the world has had that much success.
When I was a kid, I was obsessed with the Soviet Union, and my obsession stemmed from Olympic sports. This naturally led me right to CSKA, and I have been fascinated by it for decades. I've tried to follow its fate since the Soviet Union disbanded, and it's been through a mess of changes, of course -- it's now privately owned, but still sort of government-overseen (it no longer "represents" the military, as it ostensibly did in its Soviet days). Part of its facility is now a Mercedes dealership, a sight that is extremely common in Moscow these days. But it's still there and still quite powerful, particularly, I think, in hockey. (Former CSKA hockey stars include Vyacheslav Fetisov, Valeri Kharlamov, the Bure brothers, and Sergei Federov, who's the current GM of the team.)
So when I was in Moscow, I had to go see CSKA. Suffice it to say this is not something a lot of visitors do. It's not particularly easy to get to, it's not at all tourist-friendly, and most of all, it's just a working sports club like any other. I mean, it's beautiful and there are basic homages to some of its history, but beyond that, just your basic workaday rink rats and swimmers and soccer players and gymnasts running around, from teeny tiny to adult. I was surprised it wasn't bigger, but then, I'm not sure saw the whole thing. Just walked around, checked things out, caught a bit of the junior national hockey championship. I felt very weird being there -- everyone else there clearly had a *reason* to be there -- but it's not like they have security or anything. It's like walking onto a soccer field in any suburban American neighborhood. Every little boy at the hockey rink was running around in some NHL cap; Capitals and Devils were popular hats, and I was outraged that I did not see more Penguins nods, given Yevgeny Malkin's stardom. But then I visited the little pro shop and saw their prime display merchandise, a shiny Malkin Penguins jersey, which I asked in my terrible Russian if I could photograph, to hilarious results with the very obliging and bemused pro shop worker.
The best surprise of all, though, came when I found the crappy little cafeteria (literally "sport cafe") in back of the ice rink. It is named...the Red Machine. This is funny enough, given Russia's precarious relationship to the Soviet Union (some things they just completely ignore; others, like sports, they celebrate). But what's funnier is that when I say it is called The Red Machine, I mean that it is actually called The Red Machine. In English. I might never have stopped to read it in Cyrillic; I might have completely missed the name. But since it's written in English, with a huge hammer and sickle standing in for the "E" in "Red," it was pretty unmistakable. I was pretty elated that the cosmicness of the whole thing, that one of the very few Americans who surely goes to visit this place as a tourist happens to be a girl from Cincinnati, who is of course going to flip out seeing this nickname in its (original?) incarnation.
Anyway, that's how I ended up with an avatar of a nickname for my midwestern American baseball team that I found in the back corner of a former Soviet sports complex in Moscow. Here are a few pics. If anyone wants to see the whole set of the photos I took at CSKA, let me know.