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From the Press Box: Grazing and Grousing

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Welcome to "From the Press Box", where Raw Charge's reluctant-yet-enthusiastic correspondent in the Amalie Arena press box, Clark Brooks, takes you behind the scenes of the exciting world of watching hockey from the rafters for the purpose of writing articles about it.

Line up and chow down!
Line up and chow down!
Clark Brooks, Raw Charge

The best thing about having a team-issued credential to cover the Lightning is that I'm a Lightning fan, and I like to believe that being a credentialed member of the media allows me to be an ambassador on behalf of fellow fans who will never get to experience the game of hockey that way. Through this weekly column, I'll be sharing peeks behind the magical media curtain with you. Today, we're going to talk about food. (WARNING: We're probably going to talk about food often.)

I didn't begin my life as a sportswriter. I've only been doing it since 2010 and have had to learn the ways of these mysterious creatures in order to fit in and not be torn limb-from-limb while in their presence. One of the first things I learned is What Sportswriters Like. Here's that complete list:

  1. Complimentary food and beverages
  2. Complaining about complimentary food and beverages
  3. Eating the complimentary food and beverages anyway

I don't know what the standard is elsewhere, but the Lightning make plenty of food available to the press. To put it in modern slang terms, which I will regret using immediately because I'm too old for such nonsense, the Lightning snacks game is on fleek.

There's a dining room open before every game with a salad bar, soup, choice of at least two entrees, usually a carving or custom pasta station, beverages and desserts. Upstairs in the press box itself, the feasting continues with peanuts and popcorn, granola bars, pretzels, coffee, hot cocoa, along with a variety of teas (with honey, if one desires) and canned soft drinks. All of it consumed by grizzled writers, grumbling things like, "pulled pork again?" through mouthfuls of pulled pork.

This year, something has happened that has united every member of the Lightning press corps in a state of sheer joy.

In the past, during the second intermission, mini-pizzas were made available in the press box for the attempted enjoyment of all assembled. The kind of pizzas that stand-up comedians insist do not exist: bad pizzas. Terrible pizzas. Awful pizzas. Setting aside the fact that something could be utterly saturated with grease while remaining dry and chewy at the same time is something of a miracle, this was not good pizza. Picture a dog's rubber chew toy coated with gastric discomfort-inducing petroleum residue. We're talking about very, very bad pizza.

Of course we ate them. Every game, we'd grab one. Some of us grabbed two, one to hate now and one to despise later. If the terrible pizzas showed up late, loud and angry complaints were registered: "Where's the food we hate every game?!?"

But as of the first home preseason game, the pizzas were no more. They've been replaced by...Cuban sandwiches! Good Cuban sandwiches. Pressed and everything! As bad as the pizza was, is how good these sandwiches are. They're life-changingly delicious and they make everyone deliriously happy.

Although, we are a week into the regular season, so if the first complaint about them hasn't been registered already, it's coming soon. Because sportswriters.