I’ll miss my daily 2:05 pm HOLLA AT CHA BOOOOOOOOOOOOY!!! I’ll miss the best theme song on the radio. I’ll miss the daily rants in which he alludes to the fact that he is a black man 4 to 5 different times. Most of all though, I will miss a smart, exciting and controversial show on the New York airwaves. In a local radio market that runs stale with middle aged conservative white men; Steven A brings the perspective of a less than 45 year old liberal black man to the sports landscape. Or at least he did until 4pm yesterday. In one of ESPN’s worst decisions to date, they have pulled Steven A Smith from the radio so that he can focus more on television. This just does not make any sense. For those of us who eat lunch at about 2 pm every day, our slices of pizza went down nicely with Steven A’s NBA expertise and fair but passionate rants directed at the Yankees usual April sluggishness. There is no good reason why ESPN would take him off their airwaves and replace him with what, another hour of the horribly boring Mike Tirico Show? Maybe they will bring his equally dull white half-brother Dan Patrick back instead? Unless they move the great Brandon Tierney into that time slot, this is a terrible move. I can’t take 7-8 total hours a day of Michael Kay’s voice either; I just can’t. Okay I’m done
Friday, April 11, 2008
Props to Barstool Sports for this
Espn.com recently ran an article where they redrafted the 2005 draft based on how teams would do it if they could give it another try. As I looked for the Giants, I remembered that they traded their 1st round pick for Eli Manning and the rights to his Super Bowl MVP. However, two of the Giants draft picks from that year ended up as revised 1st round picks: Justin Tuck at #11, who along with Osi wins this year's "Dominic Rhodes/Joe Addai Award" for guys who should've won the Super Bowl MVP but were robbed of it because of their QB's last name. Also placing is Brandon "He's going to be great, but are we sure that Ahmad Bradshaw won't be better?" Jacobs at #31. Ironically enough Tuck went to the Cowboys and Jacobs to the Eagles. HA!
In the actual draft Tuck was a 3rd rounder, and Jacobs a 4th rounder for those who don't remember.
And yes, I'm doing anything to avoid talking Devils hockey right now, but that's not the point.
My favorite part of this video is how he chucks the guy once he's in the end zone:
Thursday, April 10, 2008
The intensity is insane. Yeah, it's kind of cliched but hockey players become possessed when on the ice. Football players are naturally nasty and I'm not going to take anything away from them. But hockey players tend to be the nicest guys off the ice. On the ice they revert back to basic human tendencies and become animals. Playoff hockey takes it up a notch, like as in every player just got injected with adrenaline, testosterone and roids before they hit the ice. They're fast, nastier and just all in all more aggressive. You throw swords and shields onto the ice and I have no doubt they would drop their sticks and start hacking at eachother like it was gladiatorial combat.
The crowd is also something else. Yeah, football stadiums can have five times or more the capacity of a hockey arena, but being in such an enclosed space filled with a bunch of screaming fans who are screaming out of sheer joy that is not alcohol induced is something else. The fandom is so into it the aura is thick enough you can cut it with a knife (yeah, another cliche, I know...).
But let me give you some specific examples of why this game rocked.
Ryan Whitney beats the crap out of Wade Redden
These were the words written in the TSN article:
“Ottawa's frustration boiled over with 3:25 to go when defenceman Wade Redden got into a pushing match with Crosby, which immediately got Redden the attention of Ryan Whitney. The Penguins blue-liner pounded Redden in a one-side fight that neatly summed up the evening.”
The “neatly summed up the evening” is a nice touch as it gets across how vitriol a playoff game can be. But what I want to point out is the part about Ryan Whitney, whose spring line of purses just hit the shelves. Whitney is 6’4”, 219 lbs of pure vagina. You know when you see a movie and some 25 year old guy tries to mug an 80 year old woman only to get beat up by her hand bag? Well getting beat up by Ryan Whitney is the NHL equivalent of that, and Mahatma and Devo will back me up on it. Not that Redden is a tough guy, but it takes a lot for Whitney to muster up courage to not only do something physical, but to actually jack you up in a fight.
Wade Redden’s only hope for dignity is to commit Seppuku, a ritual suicide that Samurai’s would do if they shamed themselves so they can die with honor. Wade, I do have a katana, let me know if you want to borrow it while you’re still in town.
As Ryan Whitney proved, every single hockey player will fight in the playoffs. Even Rob Scuderi, a guy that wouldn’t harm a fly was dropping them for his team. It’s borderline insanity really. Everyone’s balls grow exponentially when it comes playoff time. Crosby and Redden were smacking each other, Kennedy and Lee, and if Ray Emery were in goal he’d probably be fighting Marc-Andre Fleury.
The Plays Get Better
Malkin showed again he is one of the best players in the league by weaving in and out of the Senators, and both Fleury and Martin Gerber had some awesome saves. Yeah it happens in the regular season but not as often or at the level as in the playoffs. Plus since players step up their game, they have to work extra hard to score making a goal that much more satisfying.
Fleury vs LaPointe vs Talbot (kind of)
Fleury is a soft spoken and friendly guy, so he’s not really violent, even for a goalie. That’s why instead of slashing or punching people in his crease he will do something small of piss them off, like say bring his stick up into their crotch, which is exactly what he did to Martin LaPointe. Just like every man who gets a sack whack, LaPointe was decidedly pissed (it wasn’t a hard hit, but still). He turned and got into Fleury’s face, which Max Talbot would have none of, immediately skating over and putting LaPointe into a headlock, which of course began yet another scuffle between the teams. This is a constant thing in playoff hockey. (Sorry, can’t find a video for it).
In my last article I mentioned how Sens coach/GM was crying like a girl about his team and the Pens. I wasn’t the only Pens fans that noticed. The sign was every at the arena, including a girl who held it right behind Murray on the bench. The best of it all? With about three minutes left a chant got going that people on TV couldn’t make out. What was it? Nothing else than 17,000+ people cheering “cryin’ Bryan!” I’m sure he was crying some more in the locker room after the game.
Gary Roberts: the Senators Anti-Christ
You know how some players just play awesome against certain teams? Well Roberts does exactly that with the Senators. For some reason he just scores and pushes the entire team around whenever he meets them in the playoffs. In one series when he played for the Toronto Maple Leafs Roberts nearly single handedly eliminated the Senators, scoring a bunch of goals and smacking them around like a pimp does to his girls. It got to the point where last year the Senators GM was told to obtain him at any cost at the trade deadline. He lost out to the Pens, then became unemployed in the summer despite his team making it to the finals.
Roberts proved once again he kills this team, scoring two goals and starting a huge ruckus at the end. He was actually egging on the entire Senators team, as Christoph Schubert, one of the ballsiest players when your back is turned, just stood there looking yellow. And after the penalties were sorted out? Gary Roberts had more penalty minutes, even sans the misconduct, than two Senator players who were given penalties. Video is below.
Supposedly during the post game meeting people heard shouts from the Senators room of “he did it to us again!” could be heard, with some players crying in their stalls, but nothing substantial.
And because I can, Daniel Alfredsson is a douchebag.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Dudes who were here for the '00 Cup run:White, Brylin, Madden, Elias, Pandolfo, Brodeur,
Dudes who were here for the '03 Cup run (in addition to those above): Rupp, Gionta, Langenbrunner. That's not all of our team, but that's pretty much everyone on the team that matters, sans Parise, Martin, and a few others. And this doesn't include the fact that most of this team was around the last few years when they got as far or farther than the Rangers did.
And sure, the Rangers have Jagr (who almost showed up in the Devs/Rags series two years ago. Almost.), Shanahan, Drury and Gomez, but what else in terms of playoff experience? Oh, and as great as Henrik is playing, and as much as he proved that he could do it on the international stage in '06, let's not forget that that's the last time that he has played well under pressure.
So game on bitches.
Apparently Lebron's back is healthy enough for him to play tonight against the Nets. In other news, the Nets are still playing professional basketball. Who knew?
And these are 3 good reasons to pick against the Devils, but there’s something more that bothers me about this team: For years, this team has absorbed free agency hits left and right without finding adequate replacements. And they’ve overachieved over most of this time due to some very good coaching by Sutter, Julien, and Lamoriello. But after losing Judas Gomez, Rafalski and Niedermayer while only retaining Langenbrunner (smart move) and Elias (Bad move. He’s half of what he used to be; a hepatitis death scare will do that), the Devils were due to take a step back. And worse, there’s no help awaiting this team in the farm, as Parise and to a lesser extent Zajac and Clarkson may be the best that
And one additional reason to pick the Rangers: after seeing how I fared in many recent picks, I’m convinced that pretty much any team that I pick to win is going to lose. Case in point, in the one NCAA pool that I was still alive in (a pool with 7 other friends) I needed UNC to beat UCLA in the finals, and I’d win free shots from everyone. Thank you Memphis and Kansas! And last year in the NFL playoffs, I picked the Patriots, Packers, Cowboys, and even
The Pick: Rangers in 3.
This is simple. The Capitals have the best goalie in this contest (Huet is better than every Flyer goalie since Hextall circa the late 80's) and the best player. (’07-08 Hart Trophy winner Kvetchin’ Ovechkin) The Capitals have been one of the hottest teams as of late while the Flyers were leading the division a few months ago and barely made the playoffs. Most of the Capitals are healthy. A significant amount of the Flyers aren’t. It won’t be as easy as I made it out to be, but the Caps got this.
The Pick: Caps in 6.
And as for my picks for the rest of the playoffs:
First round: Penguins over Senators in 5, Canadiens over Bruins in 5, Wings over Predators in 6, Flames over Sharks in 7 (Thornton is the A-Rod of the NHL), Avalanche over Wild in 6, Ducks over Stars in 7
Second Round: Penguins over Rangers in 7 (Best series of the playoffs), Canadiens over Capitals in 5, Wings over Flames in 5, Ducks over Avs in 6,
Conference Finals: Penguins over Canadiens in 6, Wings over Ducks in 7
Finals: PENGUINS OVER WINGS IN 5 (No pressure, Mahatma & Yinzer)
MVP: Sidney Crosby
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
It was strange. As I was watching the end of yesterday's Home Opener, I had this weird, FAMILIAR, sinking feeling. I had unpleasant flashbacks to last September when everything going completely wrong became the norm during a Mets game. This is NOT a feeling that I should have been having on April 8th. I actually partly blame the media on this. So much emphasis is being put on "the Collapse" that the Mets cannot move on. I believe they very much want to, but just can't. Every mistake, strike out, bad pitch and runner left in scoring position is being questioned: is that a remnant of the collapse from last year? Will the team ever recover?
There is another part of me. This part thinks, yes the team can recover. The baseball season is still so young and there are 156 games to be played. Carlos Beltran has had 8 hits and 7 of them have been doubles. Carlos Delgado has had 9 hits and scored 7 runs. There's time for Jose Reyes to start being electric again. There's time for the injuries to heal or for Minaya to get some other help from the minors or other teams. The Mets don't ALWAYS have to play the Braves or the Phillies. Johan Santana will be pitching every 5 games. Only time will really tell what kind of season the Mets will have. You know, either way, Mets fans will find something to complain about.
Just a quick note: I came in 5th in the Straight Up Sports NCAA tourney. If Memphis won, I would have come in 2nd. I watched a lot of ESPN the day before Memphis played Tennessee, when the Tigers were still undefeated. This made me pick those two teams for the finals, with Memphis redeeming themselves and winning the whole sha-bang.
Also, the Devils(!) open their playoff series tonight at the Prudential Center and momentum has (very slightly) moved to their favor over the Rangers. Please boys, stick it to Scott Gomez.
Injuries aside, both these units are among the deepest in the Eastern Conference. However, with injuries to Daniel “Douche” Alfreddson, Mike “Douche” Fisher, and Chris “Douche” Kelly, the Senators are at a distinct disadvantage. The Penguins are armed with the best 1/2 punch at center with Crosby and Malkin and 2 potential #1 scoring lines. The depth players are even more solid with Jordan Staal, Jaarko Ruutu and playoff warrior Gary Roberts. If Heatley/Spezza can’t get anything going on than they will be toast especially without Alfreddson. I look for the Sens to try to goon it up through their douchebag brigade of Brian McGratton, Chris Neil and Christoph Schubert and try to intimidate the Pens. Unfortunately for them, this isn’t the old soft Penguins and they will dish it out especially with the way these two teams feel about each other.
Ray “Boom Boom” Emery was one of the “stars” to emerge from last season’s playoff run for the Sens but the man has decided to mail it in with his big contract and thus is now relegated to backup situations. Martin Gerber takes the reins but in reality is nothing more than a good #2 goalie. The Penguins have a clear advantage as they have seen Marc Andre Fluery take his game to a new level in the last month. Fleury has cut down on his rebounds and also has shown nifty stick handling ability. When Fleury is on he is one of the more electrifying goalies in the league and has come up big for the Pens. He has it in him to continue his ascension up the goaltending ladder provided his defense doesn’t hang him out to dry.
The Senators have the experience to advance past the Penguins. They’ve been there before. They’ve shown that they can turn that On Switch on at a moment’s notice and be the elite team they were in the first half of the season. Sure they may have played like ass the last couple of weeks but they still can put up 8 goals when they want to as evident by last Thursday thrashing of the Maple Leafs. This team is dangerous and may have found their game not a moment’s too soon. Not to mention, for much this season,
Michel Therrien is a Jack Adams candidate for
The Senators are seemingly behind the 8 ball but there is no measure for experience and the Sens have that. The Sens need to just steal one in
Senators in 6
Without question, The Redwings are clearly a stronger team all around. The Wings have tremendous depth all around and the Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg to have finally have some success in the playoffs. This could spell doom to the Predators who seem to be happy to be there. While the Predators are lacking the talent they had last season, they still snuck into the playoffs. However they still will only last one round. The Redwings aren’t nearly as soft this year either with the likes of
Not to mention that Lidstrom guy is probably the best defender of our generation and a shoo-in for the Norris Trophy.
Color me unimpressed with the play of both Osgood and Hasek but playing behind that defense gives them the edge. Dan Ellis isn’t anything to write home about but there is ALWAYS a chance for a goaltender to steal a round. Ellis has been playing very well in recent weeks but he is still after all Dan Ellis.
The season series was one that was close with only one outcome considered a blowout (6-3
The thing that’s going to put the Wings over the top is Babcock. He gave the Wings a completely different gear last playoff season. He knows how to win tough, grueling, even physical games. Given that these teams know each other so well, I think it’s going to require the coaches to have some good tricks up their sleeves and
Red Wings in 5
The Habs are an extremely deep group of forwards that are among the
What you will see in this match up is two of the best defensemen in the East go at it. Obviously, Zdeno Chara is a beast for the Bruins and will be an impact player in this series but Andrei Markov for the Canadians is an offensive dynamo but has backed it up with solid defensive play in his own zone. However with the rest of the crew, the Habs have more depth all around. Streit and Komisarek can all be game breakers while Harmlik is such a great stabilizing force on D. Bruins have some talent on the backend too but it pales in comparison.
On one hand you got Carey Price who is only 20 but already is showing a tremendous amount of poise and talent in this his rookie season. On the other hand, you have average Joe Tim Thomas who somehow continues to get wins. It’s not that Thomas is anything special. He’s just a blue collar, lunch pail, and try hard sort of guy. I’m sure he gets his inspiration from the great Tyler Hansborough. Anyway, Thomas will have to keep the Bruins in it otherwise this series will be quick. It’s still a mega risk for the Habs to go with a 20 year old and expect to compete in the playoffs. Price definitely has the tools but can he handle the pressure? Especially in hockey’s hot bed (yes there is such a place)?
For whatever reason, the Bruins continue to hang around all season despite a ton of man games lost due to injury. If you compare the teams, the Bruins have lost 330 man games to the Habs’ 70. The Bruins know how to deal with stress as they’ve rocked out all year. They are coming into this series with nothing to lose and that’s always good in the playoffs.
Claude Julien has instilled his trap in
The 31st postseason meeting between will have its share of intrigue and history. All-time, the Habs have taken 23 of 30 playoff series all time from the Bruins. No two clubs have faced each other more often in the NHL's postseason. The Habs have beaten the Bruins 11 times in a row going back to last season and are 8-0 against the Bs this year. I don’t see a sweep because the Thomas will steal a game and the Bruins are among the best defensive teams in the East. Still Chara will attempt to slow down Alexei Kovalev and I think he’s up to the task. The scoring burden falls on the other Habs like Tomas Plekanec, Bryan Smolinski, Chris Higgins and the Kostitsyns to pick up the slack in Koivu’s absence which they are more than capable of doing. Bruins should get back Bergeron and Savard at some point so there is some hope for the Bruins. They absolutely must score first and force the Habs into their type of game.
Habs in 6
note: the Pens have had a lack of effort in a good portion of their games this year, ask the Pens fans.
On the Pens not wanting to play the Flyers: "The physical nature of the game last Wednesday against the Flyers was the first thing that I thought of. And in a seven-game series, if you don't like the physical way that the Flyers played, it's probably better to go elsewhere."
note: the Flyers, one of the most physical teams in the NHL, played a lax game with little physicallity that day. Murray fails to mention the Flyers half assed the game also.
On the outlook of the series: "I know going in everybody thinks Pittsburgh will probably beat us fairly easily and that's the impression I've gotten"
It is kind of ironic that Murray is attempting to rally his troops by csaying the Pens are unwilling to play the Flyers because they are physical, yet in order to make his point he is crying like a little girl. This is all the response that is needed for Murray:
Monday, April 7, 2008
The Sharks had the second best record in the NHL this season and many of their losses came in extra periods. Filled with both productive veterans and young players the team is physical, has scoring from all over and a strong defense made stronger with the addition of Brian Campbell at the deadline.
The Flames are consistently one of the most physical teams in the NHL, especially on the blue line where they are led by stalwarts Dion Phaneuf and Robyn Regehr. They have good depth and their defense is once again one of the strongest in the league.
Both teams are led by yearly Vezina candidates in Evgeni Nabokov and Miikka Kiprusoff, so that is pretty much a wash. Both have proven reliable in the post season and the only real advantage is Kirusoff went as far as the finals.
San Jose wins 4-2
San Jose is a constant playoff choker, always seemingly missing something that would put them over the top. They think it is Brian Campbell, and while he helps he is not the reason I think they will win. San Jose has, or I should say doesn’t have one thing the Flames do: Mike Keenan. Keenan has not done nearly enough with the roster he has, especially since forwards Kristian Huselius and Damon Langkhow are having career years on offense, and Jerome Ignila potted fifty goals. His lack of coaching ability will end Calgary’s Stanley Cup bid in the first round.
Anaheim Ducks (4) vs. Dallas Stars (5)
Anaheim is probably all in all the toughest team in this league, and they got big boosts at the end when both Teemu Selanne and Scott Niedermayer decided to return. And they had already replaced them with Mathieu Schneider and Todd Bertuzzi in the off season. They have proven playoff goalie JS Giguere who has two finals appearance, one in which he won the cup the other in which he earned the playoff MVP despite being on the losing team. Anaheim can score and keep the puck from the net, and will grind the other team down while doing both. There is no real weakness on this team.
Dallas has had an up and down year despite finishing fifth in the conference. Their deadline pick up of Brad Richards was supposed to put them over the top, and he has helped with nearly a point per game. Unfortunately, almost half those points came in one game so those numbers are quite skewed. They also gave up depth in Jeff Halpern and Jussi Jokinen to get him, though trading goalie Mike Smith will not have any repercussions on this years playoffs. With their best defenseman Sergei Zubov doubtful on playing, Dallas could be without their best defenseman for their series.
Anaheim wins 4-1
I don’t think Dallas has quite the depth, or exuberant youth they need to win. While not a bad team, Anaheim is better all around in my opinion and it will show on the ice.
Congrats to Patrick Ewing for making the Hall of Fame. For many years he was the heart and soul of the Knicks and the face of the franchise and blah, blah blah.
Let's be serious. As a former diehard Knicks fan, Ewing will always be remembered for his Mark Wohlers-esque ability to close games ('95 finger roll against the Pacers) and for his off-the-field shenanigans in Atlanta.
And with no transition whatsoever...
I've been in Italy, so I'm late on giving my Red Sox 2008 preview. The day following a three game sweep by Toronto might not be the best time to do it. I'm glad the Sox aren't playing today; I need to recover from a weekend of crappy baseball. And so do the Sox. A few thoughts on the series though (I missed Friday night but caught both Saturday and Sunday's games, both in their horrible entirety):
- Ok, I'll start with the good. For a series in which the opposition scored 6, 10 and 7 runs, our starting pitching could have been worse. Wakefield looked great through five, the defense was terrible behind Buchholz and Becket got tired but his could also have been totally different if our freakin "righty specialist" didn't implode immediately (more on him in a minute).
- As for the other positives, let's give them their dues: These could be famous last words, but J.D. Drew looks back with a vengeance. This man got absolutely no love last year. And yes, he sucked for most of the season. And yes, I got a little bit tired of looking at strike three with men on base. But he also had the single most important at-bat of the 2007 season (the grand slam off Carmona) and he still somehow got mostly made fun of for it. Ok, clearly he doesn't have the personality of a Papi or a Lowell, but last year Sox fans seemed to almost enjoy booing him. Almost as if everything else was going to well and they missed having something legitimate to boo, so they were focusing all of their pent up rage on the quiet southerner. Almost as if they didn't actually want him to do well, because then they would lose out on their whipping boy. Sox fans tend to behave like this sometimes. Such was the demise of Edgar Renteria and, in the end, Keith Foulke too. Well dammit, I want Drew to have a good year. And he absolutely crushed two balls this weekend. And he was one of very few guys who didn't look extremely jetlagged out there. So let's not boo him for at least a week.
- It is trendy right now amongst baseball fans to assume that Jason Varitek is in a rapid decline. And maybe he is not at his 2003 vintage. But let's get a few things straight. One, based on last year he is not in rapid decline, or any kind of decline at all. From 2006 to 2007, all of his major stat totals increased. Two, as far as offense from the catcher spot is concerned, you could do way, way worse. Consider Tek against the Angels' catching tandem of Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis, for example. Tek beats both of them combined in every appreciable offensive category. Including facial hair - Napoli's five o'clock shadow and Mathis's finely coiffed goatee can't hold a candle to Tek's beast beard. Three, I know it's hard to quantify, but everyone says that Tek still calls a great game. So I'll believe everyone. He's got to take some of the credit for that league-lowest ERA.
- Oh, and Papelbon looks awesome as usual, following his near meltdown on "opening day." And that is in parentheses because I refuse to recognize that weird Japanese exhibition game as the first real game of the year. (And incidentally, it doesn't sound like Papelbon took much stock in it either.
Ok, onto the negatives... (deep breath)...
- The whole team looks exhausted, jetlagged, sleepwalking, comatose.
- I know I should be used to it by now, but Manny is absolutely infuriating sometimes. We are seven games in and already he has: posed at home plate while watching Chris Denorfia easily catch his flyball to deep center in Oakland, allowed Frank Thomas to reach base on a cheap bloop single that he should have caught and allowed Vernon Wells to take third on the same play. For extra measure, he smiled goofily after robbing Thomas of a home run, a catch that no one in the park, least of all Manny, thought he would get to. You better start reminding me why I constantly give you free passes, Manny.
- Lugo is absolutely horrible. So is Coco. But he's a better fielder, and at least we don't have to play him every day (although we seem to be playing him more frequently than I would like...)
- As if bent on sabotaging my fantasy season, Terry Francona keeps playing Coco instead of Ellsbury. Someone needs to have an intervention.
- I moderately to extremely concerned about the following people: Papi, Mike Lowell, Ellsbury, the entire starting rotation, Manny Delcarmen.
- I said it all offseason: the team looks good but it wouldn't be a bad idea to pick up a proven righty set-up guy. (Granted, we got Dan Kolb, but I had something more in mind.) Anyway, we didn't. And this weekend, Manny Delcarmen made his season debut in meaningful situations. On Friday, he gave up a huge double to Thomas. On Sunday, he got his rematch in what proved to be the most ridiculous, deflating moment of a generally awful series. Bases loaded, two outs, Becket on the hook for the loss if any of the runs cross the plate. Francona goes to the righty specialist to face Thomas. And just then, when Jays fans are starting to get it into their heads that this is an actual dramatic situation, Thomas hits the first damn pitch about 500 feet. So yeah, I don't have the greatest faith in Boston's own Manny Delcarmen right now, which brings me to my next point...
- I'd be ok not seeing Frank Thomas again for a very very long time.
April 7, 1933, 75 years ago today.
A lil Charlie Chaplin wannabe was Chancellor of Germany, on his way to conquering most of Europe. The Great Depression gripped America, causing people to look left, right, and up when crossing Wall Street. But for a little while none of this mattered. Why? Because the 20th Century Dark Age known as Prohibition had officially ended. Yes, people (well men at least; probably white men) were free to return to McSorley's and other neighborhood saloons without having to remember any secret password. And they would continue to do consume alcohol without worrying about the puritanical hand of John Law until facists started enforcing DUI laws in an obvious attempt to fill unoccupied holding cells across America, giving Joe Taxpayer his money's worth.
So when you get a chance, celebrate your freedom by having a few pints or shots at your local watering hole. And when the barkeep asks you to pay, make sure you tell them that on this, the 75th Anniversary of the recovery of our most fundamental right to get crunked, would Thomas Jefferson or George Washington want you to pay for this most important right? I think not.
And then run. Fast.
Colorado Avalanche vs Minnesota Wild: Western Conference 1st Round Preview of the Stanley Cup Playoffs
This should be a hard fought series between a team that went all out at the trade deadline, (re-)acquiring a former MVP and a solid blue-liner and a team that got...Chris Simon. The talent level for the Avalanche easily dwarfs the Wild-when it is all healthy. That has been unachievable this year so far for the Avs, with Joe Sakic and Paul Stasny both missing large chunks of time (in fact, only 3 Avs played all 82 games), and yet Stasny led the team in scoring, boy got skills, what can you say. In addition, high-priced winger Ryan Smyth has fizzled lately for Colorado, not scoring a goal in his last 10 games and being demoted to the 3rd line. A resurgence by Smyth could be enough to put the Avs over the top.
To be honest, there are a lot of questions about this team, but the Wild are just not bringing a lot of firepower to the table in this series. Shutting down just a couple players, or at least make their lives difficult, such as Marion Gaborik and Brian Rolston will stop the Wild on offense and allow Colorados deep bench to win the series. Even if the Wild can neutralize guys like Stasny, Sakic and Forsberg, Marek Svatos, Wojtek Wolski, or someone else with an unpronounceable name can pick up the slack. However, Jaques Lemaire's power-play and penalty-kill units easily out-classed Colorados this year, so the Avs have to keep it 5 on 5 as much as possible. I think this will be a close series, but I think even with a couple injuries, Joe Sakic will find a way for his boys to win it in 7. See below for a more detailed video breakdown of the Wild vs Avlanche.
The Wild AKA Crazy Hippie
The Avalanche AKA Uncontrollable Force of Nature
The SUS staff is busy putting together the rest of our Stanley Cup Playoffs Round One Preview as I write. Expect more hockey awesomeness Wednesday.
Props to Human Giant for making some amazingly funny shit.
IM GOING TO LIVE FOREVER!!!
Sunday, April 6, 2008
While Devo feels that the NHL should go back to ESPN, I do not share those same sentiments. ESPN treated the NHL as if it were a bastard child with little or no support or help. Sure they would air the games but would they market it? Nope. Would they do a pregame segment on it? Hell no. Would they even promote the game? Even that was relatively cold. How about sportcenter highlights in general? Nope. Oh but heck when it was 1994, ESPN loved the NHL. Quest for the Cup was on an hour before the opening faceoff and they gave it tons of post game attention. Those were the days. ESPN has obviously found better ways to spend its programming on other important things like TO, World Poker Tour, and the trials and tribulations of Dick Trickle.
ESPN had every reason to dump hockey. The NHL was in shambles; boring play coupled with too many teams and not enough talent. The ratings were on par with that of World Poker Tour and Golden Girls reruns. They had every right to sweep it under the rug.
Luckily after the lockout, Bettman realized this and wanted to propel the league onto it’s own network where it would be the focus; where hockey would get the attention that it deserves as it attempted to rebuild its image and bring back the fans.
Surely, there were high barriers to adoption of a new network but diehard NHL fans will do whatever it takes to watch their team and if the fact that Versus/OLN is in the 100s of most cable station channels causes it to be lost well so be it. In 2006, Gary Bettman gave the following statement in the Wall Street Journal:
Bettman states, “We knowingly gave up some distribution in the short term for better coverage of our games. The treatment that Versus gives us is phenomenal. Last year in the playoffs, every night was all NHL. There was wall-to-wall coverage, with double-headers. There was ancillary hockey programming and movies. The intermissions were devoted to hockey. There was extended post-game coverage every night. So in terms of how we were treated, we couldn't have been happier. We knew, at least in the short term, that while Versus was growing, we were going to have to give up some distribution to get that. They've increased, since we've been with them, by over seven million homes.”
While the ESPN networks reach a number of homes, could the NHL really sustain itself with one game a week during the regular season? Not to mention fighting with other major sports like Football, Baseball, Basketball, Golf, heck even Poker. Does ESPN honestly believe that they can have everything and give each adequate amount of time that each network believes? Please. You think ESPN could break away from 24/7 Terrell Owens coverage for 3 minutes to show
Furthermore, has ESPN even marketed the game? Let’s be honest here you would hear about hockey as being the ugly stepchild of the other major sports. How can ESPN promote a sport when it’s own columnists, writers, TV hosts berate it for being awful etc. Granted, pre lockout hockey was an abysmal trap fest compared to the free-flowing early 90s and beyond but still. ESPN also wouldn’t showcase some of the lesser known teams. We would see numerous Stars, Red Wing, Avalanche contests in the west as well as Rangers, Devils and Flyers contest in the east. Now am I arguing that these games shouldn’t be shown? – Of course not. What I am saying is that ESPN could have showed us an
This is not to say that OLN/VS network is without faults. Shoddy production values, poor camera angles, average announcers among others but they are improving. The production values are now up there with what ESPN was offering. The playoff coverage from the past playoffs were top notch and the broadcasting of TSN games was also a brilliant idea. Furthermore, hitching a ride to the TSN serves as a model for which VS can try to aspire to be; TSN hockey broadcasts are far and away the best in the business.
Most importantly though, hockey is finally the focal point of a network in
I’m sure ESPN would be interested in few games here or there, but for them to take back the majority of the broadcast coverage would be retarded decision. I don’t want to miss the hockey playoffs to watch some meaningless Cardinal / Astro baseball game in April or Knicks vs. Bobcats lottery pick showdown. Keep it on Versus where I can enjoy my hockey coverage. Blame Bettman for a lot of things but sticking with Versus shouldn’t be one of them.
Sportscenter a few weeks ago: there were upwards of 10 hockey games played, many of which involved teams who were either fighting for playoff spots or playoff position. After watching the first 40 minutes of sportscenter, I realized that they were going to show every highlight except for the hockey. And worse, this was a daily Sportscenter trend.
So what happens to the NHL without ESPN? If it doesn’t die a slow death, then it certainly crawls on minus a limb or two. You can catch the NHL on Vs. twice a week and NBC once a week post-NFL. In Vs’ defense, they have some pretty solid people covering the games, but only core hockey fans know that Vs. exists. Hockey will maintain something of an audience, if only because its core audience is like no other fanbase except possibly soccer, but how can it expand its viewership when the average sports fan doesn’t even know that Vs. exists? And until there is a national show that the common sports fan can easily find to watch hockey highlights, hockey will not expand beyond its core audience.
And it’s a shame too, because the average sports fan likes hockey. Most casual fans and even most non-sports fans leave a hockey game feeling entertained. (Though with ticket prices what they are today for anything except for the top few rows, saying that fans got their moneys worth now has a whole new meaning. But that’s another article.) But Americans are lazy; they’ll watch whatever sport is put in front of them. If they have to make the extra effort to find hockey, they won’t bother. So if they like the NBA and NHL equally, they’ll just watch the NBA because they don’t have to do research in order to find it.
Even diehard hockey fans have a hard time being able to follow anything but the local team. As a Devil fan living in Capitals territory, I’ve had no choice but to become a casual Caps fan over the last few years. But I’m still a Devils fan at heart and will do anything to follow them, and that leaves me with two options: 1. buy the NHL package for about $160, and frankly, it’s unfair to ask most people (myself included) to throw down for that, or 2. go to www.nj.com/devils every day and read the local coverage from the Star-Ledger, and catch a little of the games for the few weeks each year that I’m in NJ. And even with all that, I’m still not able to follow the team as much as I want.
More likely than not, the average hockey fan is going to do what this one dude I spoke with on the DC Metro does: he’s a fan of 3 teams because he’s lived in 3 different NHL cities. Unable to follow any of his previous two teams closely after he leaves the city, he is now a Capitals fan.
So what can be done? The answer is unfortunate, but very simple. GARY BETTMAN MUST DO WHATEVER IS IN HIS POWER TO GET HOCKEY BACK INTO THE ESPN MIX.
Look, I don’t know the economics that surround this, but there are still enough Texas Hold-Em tournaments on the ESPN networks to prove that they have room for some hockey games each week. If you put the hockey on TV, the minions will follow. And once people are given a glimpse of the new and improved NHL, they’ll return. The quality of play is too exciting for them not to, with potentially two of the top ten players of all time still 6 or 7 years away from reaching their peak performance.
I don’t like sucking from the corporate teat of ESPN any more than anyone else. Their ability to rid hockey from the national sports consciousness is an evil of Nixonian proportions. I don’t know how to get it back, but there are smarter minds than me working for the NHL and ESPN who surely can make this happen. The NHL must do this if they want to maintain a long term fanbase, even if it costs the owners some money in the short term.
The bottom line is this: if you show it, the fans will come. And ESPN is the only way to do that.