Saturday, April 07, 2007

Playoff Pageantry and Drama... Somewhere

By: Paul Teeple

It all comes down to this: two of sport's oldest and most furious rivals to do battle for one final playoff spot in each team's last game of the year. The arena is a mad house, alternately ablaze with blue & white and red & blue. Each team is trying to best the other while holding off a hard-charging third contender that is moving in fast from the outside. It's all the drama that makes the end of the regular season worth a six month physical and emotional grind. It's the kind of night that reminds you what it means to be a sports fan.

Too bad you'll never see it.

Tonight at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, the hometown Maple Leafs host the arch-nemesis Montreal Canadiens in the last game of the regular season. Montreal leads Toronto by what amounts to a half game in the Eastern Conference standings and tonight's game could clinch the final playoff spot for the Habs, catapult the Leafs into 8th by themselves and/or possibly give the Islanders new life with one game remaining on Sunday. And thanks to the NHL and their ludicrous television deal, you need to either live in Canada, purchase the NHL Center Ice package from your TV content provider or live close enough to a major Canadian market so that you can pick up CBC with your bunny ears.

Why go to all the trouble? Shouldn't such massively important games be nationally televised, if not over-the-air then at least on a nation-wide cable carrier? Well, come to think of it, yes. Yes they should. But they won't be.

You'll never find a similar button on
These are the days of a hockey fan's life thanks to the NHL and their nonsensical cable television deal with Versus (nee OLN). Versus, which is supposedly so enthusiastic about its NHL television deal, only has one (one!) national telecast per week, and it's on Mondays -- gravity of the games be damned. So when the season ends on a Sunday and there are huge games on a Saturday night... nothing. In fact, you know what's on Versus at 7pm? A show I've never heard of named "Holy @#$%*!" which is apparently like "Real TV" but for 'extreme' sports. You know, for all of the Worldwide Leader's misgivings, when ESPN carried the NHL they had games on multiple nights and if games at the end of the regular season had heightened importance they'd bump their billiards coverage on ESPN2 and find a way to bring the huge games to the masses.

Let's also take the NHL's contract with NBC out of the equation. Over-the-air national networks have never and will never change their schedules for sports.

When the NHL made their short-sighted cash grab with OLN in 2005, everyone who even had a cursory knowledge of sports and/or television knew that they'd screwed themselves. When a sport has marginalized its relevance with an increasingly boring product (at the time) and a decimating work stoppage, it's probably a BAD idea to move your national cable contract from a sports network in roughly 95 million households nationwide to a "sports" network with 65 million households nationwide. And that's just looking exclusively at the numbers.

Let's be honest: the difference between ESPN and Versus is WAY more than 30 million households. One network is THE name in sports broadcasting in America. Love 'em or hate 'em, when you're bored and want to watch sports, the first channel you go check out is ESPN. Not FSN, not CSTV, not FOX, not CBS, not NBC, not ABC. And most certainly not freaking Versus. ESPN is what TV people refer to as "destination viewing." For a fun way of telling the difference between ESPN and Versus, go to your buddy's place tonight to do some pre-gaming and ask 'em: "What channel is ESPN?" Then ask, "What channel is Versus?" You can make a drinking game out of it: five drinks if your buddy says "What the hell is Versus?"; chug if he says "Channel 608."

With a TV contract on ESPN, apparently ANYTHING can be a well-covered sport.
Admittedly, ESPN drew criticism from "hockey people" south of their border from their general disinterest in promoting their hockey broadcast and at the time the criticism was well deserved. But in this modern era where the Worldwide Leader goes out of its way to promote ANY sport they're broadcasting, I have extreme difficulty believing the NHL would suffer a similar fate today. All you need for solid proof of this thought is the Arena Football League. The past four years, ESPN went out of its way to discredit the AFL and treat it like less of a sport (deservedly so, might I add, it's a piece of crap). This year, however, ESPN has erred in the opposite direction, aggressively pushing its AFL broadcasts during its shows, running all AFL game highlights on SportsCenter and running AFL promos during high-profile NCAA, MLB and NBA broadcasts.

Additionally, a lot of hockey pundits advocated the NHL use the NASCAR blueprint for regaining a foothold in the American sports psyche. Well, who do you suppose has the NASCAR cable contract these days, which they are summarily promoting the living crap out of? You guessed it.

What it boils down to is this: everybody knows the NHL dropped the ball on its TV contract. What they need to do now is make it right by their fans; swallow your pride, Commissioner Bettman, and go back to ESPN. more...

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

What do we do now?

Well, the college basketball season is officially over, and now all we have to watch is baseball, the NBA, or, as ESPN would have you to believe, the AFL is watchable. Right. This is the same network that a few years ago was telling us how much of a joke the AFL was. Now, it is shoving it down our throats as if they were always on board. Bon Jovi owns a team, so does John Elway. I could give a helicopter-in-the-superbowl-flying crap. You know why I don't care? Because the products and the players aren't good enough to stand alone.

If this league were any good, it wouldn't have to shorten the field or allow for stray kicks to stay in the field of play because of an all-encompassing net. There will never be a Herschel Walker type talent that chooses the AFL over the NFL, the league sucks, I don;t care how many points they score.

But it did get me thinking. What would it be like if certain players from the NFL suited up in the AFL? In an effort to peak your interest in the possiblity that this could possibly happen, I will pick one player from an NFL team and put them on the closest geographical AFL team.

Edgerrin James, Phoenix Rattlers- Many questioned the Edge's move from the Indianapolis Colts to the Arizona Cardinals, yet many people had no problem when James decided to switch leagues altogether. Unfortunately, Edge didn't realize that nobody ever runs in the AFL, and after only getting 5 carries in his first season as a Rattler, James brutally murdered Sherdrick Bonner. James contends that he didn't kill Bonner because of his lack of involvement on the field, but because "only 'crackers' should be named Sherdrick."

Andrew Walter, Los Angeles Avengers- Through getting his ass handed to him on the worst team in the NFL, Walter joins the Avengers and immediately becomes AFL MVP. To make the story even more compelling, he breaks Trent Green's leg, gets a job at a local LA grocery store, and has sex with Kurt Warner's wife several times.

Brian Urlacher, Chicago Rush- The quintessential NFL linebacker shocked the world when he jumped ship, and was also shoked to learn that he must also play center in addition to being middle linebacker for the Rush. Upon his first sensation of a quarterback's hand nestling up against his crotch, he questioned why he was so rough with all of the quarterbacks he sacked, yet the first one he directly encountered was so gentle with him.

Javon Walker, Colorado Crush- Javon Walker was brutally annihilated over one of those padded walls they have in that league, because the opposing team found out how bad he dogged Brett Favre. Even people in different leagues love Brett Favre.

Eddie Kennison, Kansas City Brigade- Coupled with the Chiefs reluctance to re-sign him and his inability to let go of the game, Eddie Kennision signed a two week contract with the Brigade. The NFL then declares that Kennison 15 years from now cannot blame Herman Edwards for his inability to help his 7 year old son blow out the candles on his birthday cake.

Troy Smith, Columbus Destroyers- After a terrible National Championship game against the Florida Gators, the Buckeye Heisman trophy winner had no choice but to join the AFL. If only he knew how close his real dad was to contacting him. Damn you, Jarvis Moss.

I left some of the high profile cities for you, our readers to come up with players of your own that have made the switch. I think it would be fantastic if the NFL, for just one year decided to play by AFL rules. No, wait, I don't, the AFL is God-awful and is a horrible imitation of the greatest game in the world. more...

Monday, April 02, 2007

The NCAA Fails. So hard.

Look, I'm not mad OSU lost. Horribly disappointed that they kept shooting threes in the second half well after it was readily apparent they weren't able to, but holy jumpin', credit Florida. They hit indefensible shot after indefensible shot and just never let OSU get close. As an Ohio State fan at heart, I hate to say it... but... big ups to the champs.


Look, I don't purport to know what's going on in other peoples' heads, in fact I am usually WAY off -- just ask any of my ex-girlfriends. But this fine evening I think I got a glimpse at the true nature of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. What did said glimpse reveal to me?


They really do. They do love your money, though.

You may not realize what I am referring to, but I am indeed referencing my favorite three minutes in all sports, One Shining Moment. I don't know if you all caught it, but Greg Gumbel just promoted the NCAA SELLING the video for One Shining Moment tomorrow on iTunes. You heard me. SELLING ONE SHINING MOMENT. That is absolute blasphemy. I am simply outraged. The NCAA, already oblivious to how archaic the notion of "amateur athleticism" is, has just absolutely lost touch with reality. They are attempting to make a cheap buck off what has for 20 years been literally the pinnacle of live sports broadcasting.

I, for one, will not stand for it.

In that spirit, I urge absolutely EVERYONE--even Florida fans who want the video on their iPods--to boycott the sale of One Shining Moment on iTunes. CBS has had such a close relationship wih YouTube to this point, I find it unconscionable that they would now shun the peoples' video resource for a pay service. It is my sincerest hope that if/when One Shining Moment finds its way to YouTube that CBS uses its head and doesn't have it pulled down within 24 hours. College basketball fans everywhere deserve to be able to watch sports' finest three minutes whenever they want, free of charge. more...

Thoughts on the Cheha

By: Paul Teeple

With the national title game about three hours from tip-off, I wanted to post some disconnected thoughts on tonight's matchup before the festivities got under way.

This guy is ugly. That is all.
-Rematch more meaningful: If I hear or see one more Florida fan reference the 86-60 final score between the two teams when they met in December, I'm going to pop them in the jaw. How can I be more clear than this: IT WAS A REGULAR SEASON NON-CONFERENCE GAME. Forget Greg Oden's health, forget Al Horford's health, forget Florida's home-court advantage, forget everything else. In a sport where the postseason is the one and only thing that matters, Florida fans are leaning on the outcome of A REGULAR SEASON NON-CONFERENCE GAME as proof that Florida is going to walk all over the Buckeyes in Atlanta tonight.

-A Different Historical Repetition?: Kopech and I are of like mind on this game: it is a startling parallel to a national title match from a few years back... think about this:

One heavily favored team...
  • On their second consecutive Final Four visit
  • Featuring scads of veteran talent and a sick bench
  • A dynamic head coach whose championship weekend was hounded by questions about being offered his dream job

An underdog team with...
  • Two insanely talented freshmen (one decidedly more so than the other)
  • Surrounding cast featuring more young talent with veteran players sprinkled in to play key roles
  • A highly regarded head coach who was in search of his first ever national title

One Shining Block
Let me reveal the identities of our mystery guests from the 2003 National Championship Game...

  • Returning after their 2002 Final Four trip
  • Kirk Hinrich, Keith Langford, Nick Collison, Aaron Miles, Michael Lee
  • Roy Williams, who was pestered to the point of televised vulgarity about rumors that he was leaving KU after the Final Four to take a dream job at UNC

  • Carmelo Anthony and Gerry Macnamara (Melo was juuuuust a bit better than G-Mac)
  • Hakim Warrick, Kueth Duany, Billy Edelin
  • Jim Boeheim
I don't think you need a degree in applied mathematics to find each team's analog in tonight's final, though I will admit that the Boeheim > Matta parallel is a bit shaky since Thad Matta has only been OSU's head coach since 2004 and not, ya know, 1976. But even still, some food for thought heading into tonight's game.

Mr. Leak will not be on the floor on Monday
-History repeating Pt. 2: The overwhelming, no-expert-in-his-or-her-right-mind-would-pick-against-em, fans-talking-waaaay-too-much-trash, favorite entering the last Ohio State-Florida national title tilt got their doors blown off in a shocking upset that noone saw coming. You see, this applies because... umm... err... ohhhh, wait! That was football! I take it back. Why? BECAUSE FOOTBALL GAMES HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH BASKETBALL GAMES! (please take notes, national media apologists*, Florida fans and alums)

*- Last year good ol' Skip wrote that UCLA was going to pound UF. He's picking Florida to rout OSU this year.

There may or may not be a point to these random thoughts. Florida may fight through an overwhelming onus and add another memo to Gainesville's recent title deed purchase of Columbus. But before anyone starts saying Ohio State has no freaking chance, they may want to stop and take a look around. Even you, Doyel.