Monthly Archives: June, 2008

Pardon our dust…

I wasn’t happy with any of WordPress’ themes. (No offense, yinz guys, but there wasn’t enough black and gold for my tastes ‘n’at.)

I still have to sand off some rough edges and get my banner photo up there, but this is close enough for gubmint work.

His title was “Hockey Analyst”, not “Hair Product Model”

Just a quick note on Tampa Bay hiring ESPN talking mullet Barry Melrose:

Barry Melrose didn’t spend the last 13 years managing a bed and breakfast.

Can we please calm down now? Thank you.

…and counting.

It Doesn’t Hit You Right Away

I was too in the moment last night. The event was foremost in my mind, but the implications weren’t. Then, on the commute home tonight, it hit me.

There was no reason to hurry.

No game, no live blog, no two or three nights of chores crammed into one to make room for games or live blogs.

No more hockey. No Cup to show for it. Just a ticket stub, a few cameraphone shots of the traditional dog pile photo, a few free hours Saturday night, and a dull ache that may not go away anytime soon. Just a dull ache, though. Not the sharp pain of hitting the wall in the first round, or what a sweep or a fold would have felt like.

Maybe the lack of seething animosity between Pittsburgh and Detroit is helping the loss go down easier. [Glares at the eastern half of the state.] After The Mural, the Rangers’ “Cindy the Diver” act, and, well, Philly being Philly, it was nice to have some mutual respect, and a plain, simple may-the-best-man-win series.

Make no mistake, the best men won. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a team as positionally sound as the Red Wings. It seemed like, no matter what the Penguins did, the Red Wings would have somebody in position to intercept a pass, cut off a dump-in, pull a puck out of a scrum on the boards, or take a simple five-foot pass when a Detroit puck carrier was under pressure. More of a full-court press than a neutral zone trap. And against a team that had never seen it before, it was the perfect plan to gain a quick lead in the series. It took the Pens the first two games just to figure it out.

If Detroit had a weakness, it was their figurative right foot. As soon as they let up off the throttle, the Penguins, who never lacked for intensity even as they looked utterly confused, would strike. The Wings came out slow in Game 3, and the Pens jumped out to an early lead and held on for the win. With the Cup on its way to the ice in Game 5, the Penguins found another level of desperation, Miracle Max found a rebound on the right post, and a three-overtime legend was born.

The Red Wings didn’t make those mistakes in Game Six, though. Well, not until Jiri Hudler took a late penalty that let the Penguins close to 3-2 on a Marian Hossa deflection. They had one more furious six-man rush, but Hossa’s last put-back attempt was tantalizingly close, agonizingly late.

So what are we left with? An uneven start, a Thanksgiving turning point, Fleury’s high ankle sprain, Ty Conklin’s moment of glory, Crosby’s high ankle sprain, Evgeni Malkin’s breakthrough, and some of the most thrilling, entertaining hockey this town has seen in years.

So I find myself celebrating this season, even with sadness at the end.

After all, we could have been refusing to watch Detroit and Kansas City.

Here endeth the lesson.

Congratulations to the 2007-2008 Stanley Cup Champions, the Detroit Red Wings.

And thank you, Pittsburgh Penguins, for such a thrilling season of hockey.

I’ll write more when I’ve had a chance to gather my thoughts. And shave.

Wings Fans Have Different Reactions

Max Talbot has a new fan.

**POST DELETED**

Sometimes, you just don’t your own strength. You don’t understand just how deep down you have to reach to find the will, to find the energy, to find something to carry you through the darkest time you’ve ever faced.

You’ve never faced it before.

Has a force so overwhelming ever turned your 2-1 lead into a 3-2 deficit with such swiftness and intensity? Have you ever felt so helpless on a field of play you’ve lived on for your entire life? Have you ever come within one minute of losing the championship? In the neutral zone, preventing a superstar from taking a shot on an empty net? Gaining the zone, chasing the puck into the corner? Working it to the slot? Throwing it at the net, hoping for a rebound? Standing at the post, with a sliver of daylight between cold, red iron and a sprawling goalie’s skate?

And what does it earn you? Another forty-nine minutes and fifty-seven seconds of life, doled out in twenty-minutes increments with no time outs, and no margin for error. Your next mistake could end everything.

So you lean into the storm. Weather it. Eventually, the relentless pressure that allowed them to take the lead from you will falter. Fatigue and doubt will settle in. Your will asserts itself. In the little battles, at the lines, along the boards, in your crease, your will begins to prevail.

And then it happens.

An opportunity you were thirty-five seconds from being denied is right there. Deep down, you knew that when that opportunity presented itself, when you had that chance, you’d take it.

See you Wednesday night.

Of Novelty Acts and Endurance

The story according to A.C. Nielsen’s overnight ratings:

  • EliteXC Saturday Night Fights (CBS): 2.7
  • Stanley Cup Finals, Game 4 (NBC): 2.6

So mixed martial arts is more popular than hockey now, right? Not with a single data point, it’s not. If some accounts of the main event, matching blanket-hyped internet sensation Kimbo Slice against James “Colossal Tomato Can” Thompson, are to be believed, the fix might have been in. I neither watched nor recorded the fight. (I prefer boxing. I’m old school like that.) That puts me in no position to judge the impact of Saturday night’s ratings matchup.

I’ll let the long term make its own case.

If the mainstream sports media is any indicator, MMA’s prospects weren’t helped by EliteXC’s show. At 1:15 PM today, here’s how some prominent MSM sports web sites are covering MMA on their front pages:

  • espn.com: The regular ESPN The Magazine cover story link, since last week’s cover was Kimbo Slice. Mixed Martial Arts is hidden under the “More +” menu item.
  • si.com: A link under The Scorecard entitled “TOO MUCH HYPE: Kimbo Slice is doing MMA a disservice”, and the regular “MMA & Boxing” menu item.
  • sports.yahoo.com: A link to the Dan Wetzel column I linked above, and the regular MMA menu item.
  • foxsports.com: An analysis of the Slice/Thompson fight, well down the page, and the regular MMA menu item.
  • sportingnews.com: Nothing. Not even a menu item for MMA.
  • tsn.ca: No story. MMA is a sub-entry under “Other”, but it doesn’t appear on the front page. (But there is a refreshing amount of European soccer news!)
  • sportsline.com: No story! That’s right, CBS Sports’ website has nothing about the event they aired Saturday night on today’s front page. Just a lonely little MMA menu item.

Clearly, CBS and EliteXC have done MMA fans no favors with this little experiment. I don’t think anybody was looking for a “big bang” opening in the first place, not when Saturday night is a ratings graveyard. But not so much of a graveyard that the NHL couldn’t improve its ratings over last year’s Game 4.

There’s still hope for MMA. I’ve seen enough WEC while waiting for hockey games on Versus to know that there are better-run organizations than EliteXC out there. Let’s face it, though. Cauliflower ear is no way to make a first impression.