The sports beat

The witness protection program

Rest assured that if the NHL had ratted out a mob boss and and entered into witness protection, their players would be perfectly safe. Believe me, other than a handful of local fanatics, nobody knows who these guys are. Heck, even SpongeBob SquareFace, or whatever his name is, beat Game 5 of the NHL finals in the national television ratings. The NHL was already on the ropes because they didn’t really have a marquee team in the finals. Sure, they had the L.A. and N.Y.C. markets, but neither team has had the kind of success that brings a rabid fan base to the party.

Surely you recognize the NHL regular season leader in goals scored, right?

And the NHL did itself no favors by putting most of the playoffs and Finals on the NBCSports channel, formerly Versus. That would be channel 603 on my DirectTV. I don’t get within 300 channels of that one in my usual channel surfing.

Plus, let’s face it, the NHL really suffers from a lack of star power. I call it “the mom test.” Are there any hockey players that your mom would recognize in their street clothes? Any at all? Is there a Tom Brady or Aaron Rogers or A-Rod or Derek Jeter or LeBron James or Kobe Bryant anywhere in the league? Granted, local cities know their stars’ faces. But would the man-on-the-street in, say, Lincoln, Nebraska, recognize Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechken in a suit and tie? Never. Those white guys all look alike to us. How do you tell one from another?

Until the NHL can get a decent TV contract and some charismatic stars, it will remain, essentially, a cult sport. And you know, I think hockey fans are okay with that.

The pretender vs. the stolen goods

The NBA Finals are also problematic to me. Of course, I don’t want to root for Miami. To borrow a political meme, “I knew Michael Jordan, and you, LeBron James, are no Michael Jordan.” I don’t know why I should hold that against him. There will never be another MJ. But I will forever hold LeBron in contempt for running to play with other stars instead of determining to build a team that could beat them. Maybe that wouldn’t have been possible in Cleveland. Then why not go to New York and build a team there? They’d have a lot more money to spend than in Cleveland. And if you brought a winner there, they’d worship you forever. No, instead you decided to go play with all your buddies. Hey, I get it. You’re a millionaire in your mid-twenties on South Beach. I can do the math. It’s just that every cell in MJ’s body wanted to beat Charles Barkley and Karl Malone and Reggie Miller and Isaiah Thomas and Magic Johnson… not join them.

And I can’t root for Oklahoma City because I have too much empathy for the fans in Seattle. The Sonics won an NBA title in 1979 with Jack Sikma, Gus Williams, and Dennis Johnson. For forty-one years, their fans supported the team and filled the building. But because the city of Seattle wouldn’t fork up $500 million in taxpayer money to build a new arena with ritzy sky boxes, they lost their team. It was a classic stick-up. In 2006, Starbucks owner Howard Schultz sold the team because Schultz thought that the new buyers would not immediately move the franchise to Oklahoma City but instead try to keep it in Seattle. By 2008, the moving trucks were scheduled.

I know that all of this is not the doings of the current Thunder players or their great fans, but then, this year, the Thunder marketed this t-shirt…

Rubbing your success into the raw nerves of Seattle fans was a punk move. It was beyond the pale. How can I cheer for you?

Your team name are awesome!

Quick editing joke: the past and the present walk into a bar. Things quickly grow tense. (Boom! Get it?)

This brings us to these stupid mass singular noun names that were so popular in the 80s and 90s. The Heat and the Thunder. Ooooo. This is causing a nightmare for copyeditors like myself. Do you treat them as plural, since they are a team of many players…

The Heat were mounting a comeback.

Or, do you go with the singular, as the name would imply.

The Thunder was was mounting a comeback.

In a recent New York Times story, they couldn’t decide…

“Well, we never thought that we were supposed to wait our turn,” said Durant, to the question of whether the Thunder were (plural) ready to book a place in the finals opposite the winner of the East’s Boston-Miami series. “We always wanted to go and take everything.”

But until the ball was thrown up, they couldn’t possibly know how they would respond to the magnitude of the night. Coach Scott Brooks said he had never allowed the Thunder to use their (plural) youth as an excuse, a means of rationalizing defeat with the understanding there would be many more chances to come.

He insisted this game had been approached like any other, with the caveat that the Thunder was (singular) typically “an excitable group” under any conditions.

See what I mean? Sports Illustrated is going with the plural. But the local papers, the Daily Oklahoman and the Miami Herald, both use the singular.

It’s just awkward. I would back a constitutional amendment banning all singular team names like the Lightning, the Jazz, the Wild, and the Magic. Leave that kind of stuff to the WNBA, arena football, and soccer.

All that to say, I could care less about who wins the NBA title.

As long as it’s not LeBron.

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About carpetbagger

Tom and Jean are just a couple of Chicago transplants in Lawrenceville, a neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

Posted on June 14, 2012, in Sports and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Looks like they invented awards, just for MJ.

  2. The NHL just re-upped long term with NBC last year to a substantially more lucrative contract than they had previously (coming out of the lockout, it was essentially ‘free hockey’ for NBC, as they didn’t have to pay up front rights fees). So it may be cult for a while. But we’re fine with that. Especially if they keep doing things like ‘every playoff game on TV’ like they did this year on the peacock’s sister networks.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not big on NBC or their coverage. But hockey always seemed a black sheep on ESPN (more often than not, ESPN2). And even if it was on there now, they’d probably still wait until the 52nd minute for showing highlights on Sportscenter after having mentioned the word Tebow 100+ times in the preceding 51 minutes. Big fish in little pond may not reach the masses, but reaches the people who are devoted to it

    Also, I think a third party marketed that shirt. The OK management may be selfish, fast-tracking the move of a (kinda) storied professional basketball team, but that seems like bad publicity from a marketing standpoint. Also, if I’m remembering all of this correctly, weren’t there death threats involved?

    • ESPN buried hockey as soon as it left the network. But I’m surprised that hockey couldn’t get a better deal with FOX sports or TNT or some channel that people already watch for something else.

      I don’t remember much more about the shirt when it came out this past Spring. But third-party or not, that’s a pretty serious karma train.

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