The first game of the Sharks playoff season starts in T-minus like 5 minutes. Can I get a CHOMP CHOMP CHOMP CHOMP HELLS YEAH?
Who’s excited for this year’s round of Grace’s-mood-is-dependent-on-hockey-scores?
WARNING: This post contains sports.
So this morning on the T I was sharing the train with an Annoying Personage. (what, on the subway? in Boston? surely you jest, grace.) And of the variety of annoying things this person said and did, what caught my attention was this thing he was saying to his buddies:
…the Boston Red Sox is a team that TRIES to play baseball. You want to watch a good team, watch the Yankees. [Aside: These are not wise things to say in Boston. He was getting looks.] But at least baseball is interesting. A real sport. Not like soccer. They score like one or two fucking goals the entire game. It’s so fucking boring. And when a player slides into second base, he fucking slides man, and then he gets up and keeps playing. Not like in soccer [insert falsetto] “oh oh I fell down oh look at me is my hair okay?”
Okay first of all, if we’re going to have a “soccer is a sport for pussies, real men play [insert favorite sport here]” thing, then let’s see you play 90+ minutes of soccer. (I’m going to keep calling it soccer, because I am a dumb, obstinate American.) There may be some acting involved and they may wear too much hair gel, but these men and women are in fact athletes. I mean, hell, let’s see Kevin Youkilis play 90 minutes of soccer. He won’t last—he isn’t in the right shape for it and he’s been trained in different skills. And soccer isn’t the only sport that involves acting; there’s a reason “diving” is a penalty in hockey. Like soccer players, these stereotypically “tough” men are trying to draw any advantage they can for their team.
But second of all, and more annoying to me, there’s a mistaken belief that seems prevalent here in the US of A that more scoring = a more exciting game. We’re going to, again, use hockey as an example because let’s face it, that’s my sport. At some point (5ish years ago) the NHL decided that the way to get more fans (more revenue) was to make hockey a higher-scoring game. Like in soccer, 1-0 or 2-1 games were the norm, with each team battling to the death for even one goal. But the rules were changed. Among other changes, the goalie’s crease (his safe zone, basically) was made smaller so players could get closer to the net; the offensive zones were made larger; the goalie’s pads/gloves/etc were made smaller; goalies were restricted in how far they could wander from their goal (I like to call this the Patrick Roy rule); and a shoot-out would be used to decide ties. The argument for all this was, people watch hockey for the fights* and for the goals.
When there are fewer goals per game, the moments between the goals mean more. A near miss in a 1-0 game is more of an event than a near miss in a 6-2 game. The 8-0 blow-outs that have been happening are just not fun, even if you’re rooting for the winning team. The games are just not as intense. They aren’t as heart-pounding. They aren’t as much fun to watch. Old-school, you could miss a moment and miss the entire game. Every turn, every pass meant something. With the new rules… anything could happen at any moment, but it could happen again five minutes from now too, and then again, and oh look we’re halfway through the second period and we’re down by 4 and what’s the point of even watching the rest? Oh look, here’s Law & Order.
People just don’t understand—goals do not equal excitement. The rarer they are, the more they mean, and the more the intervening moments mean.
There are sports for people who want constant scoring. Basketball (a sport I, incidentally, don’t enjoy much). Baseball has become more like that with all the home runs recently. (I’m counting “recently” as like, since the mid-90s. Weren’t there rule changes in baseball, too, like about the size of the strike zone? Too lazy to look it up…) Soccer is simply not one of them. This does not make baseball “better.” It doesn’t make you superior to the tens of thousands of soccer fans worldwide, because you like a “real sport.” Get off your high horse. You watch your sport, I’ll watch mine.
Also, stop dissing the Red Sox and praising the Yankees on Boston subways, you’ll live longer.
*Fighting in hockey is a rant for another day. Don’t worry, I have strong opinions.
You are breaking my heart.
My family moved to San Jose the year you were created—I was five years old and Teal Fever took a strong hold on my impressionable young mind. Now I’m 24 and I live all the way across the country in Boston, but I’ve remained loyal through thick and thin.
I remember the Cow Palace days. I remember when Patrick Marleau was our draft pick in 1997. I was in the front row when Zyuzin scored the game-winner in overtime against the Dallas Stars (boo, hiss), and I chanted “Belfouuuurrrr” as we left that game. My brother used to put his Sharkie puppet/toy on top of the TV when we watched games, to bring you luck. One time, Mike Vernon waved at me at a practice.
I have been loyal through all the playoffs ups and down, from when you were a scrappy new team beating Detroit and Dallas, to now when you’re the top of the pack but can’t seem to get past the Conference Finals.
Which brings me to the point of this letter.
You’re breaking my heart, guys. Breaking it in two.
I have been watching and yelling and crying and cheering throughout this entire playoff season, but now, with Chicago, a cold hard depression has set in.
If you don’t make it to the finals, it will break my heart. I’ll cry. Nobody wants that—I’m not pretty when I cry.
So hear this plea from one loyal fan: kick some Chicago ass.
Sincerely and with much love,
I like how this goalie is just like… what?
From boston.com—can’t get it to embed properly.
Season-opener tonight against the Avs. Goooooo sharks!
I am a hockey fan, in the true sense of the word fanatic. I moved to San Jose, California, the same year the San Jose Sharks were created, so I was there on the cusp of hockey excitement/marketing in San Jose. My young mind was very easily influenced by the hype, and I got swept up in Teal Fever. But soon I began to love the game for itself. Even after I moved away I kept watching my boys in teal and whatever other games happened to be around, NHL or otherwise. In college, I started playing (badly). It’s just–it’s my favorite sport to watch, to play, to talk about. I love hockey. When played well, it is the most beautiful sport in the world.
Not, however, a popular one, at least not in this country. One of my friends took great delight in telling me what non-news the playoffs were last season when my Sharks were battling their arch-nemesis, the Dallas Stars (boo, hiss). I’ve gotten used to it. I love my little sport, and I don’t care if everyone else would rather watch football or baseball (both of which, incidentally, I am also fond of–really I like watching most sports), I will sit by myself and yell at the tv as the Sharks once again suck at the power play.
I mean, I understand the problems. Take soccer. To play soccer, you need a roundish object and an area in which to kick it around. Those two things are easily accessible to pretty much everyone. To play hockey, you need, at the very least, ice, skates, a stick, and a flattish object to thwack around, and those first two are specialized objects that can’t be substituted. Some people are lucky enough to live in some freezing icy wasteland, but even in Minnesota most people have to buy ice time, and that ain’t cheap. And if you’re going to play properly (safely, in a league) you need hundreds of dollars worth of equipment.
So hockey’s not really accessible to the masses, which understandably makes it less enjoyable for many people to watch. That’s the nice half of my “why hockey isn’t popular” argument. The somewhat ruder half: a lot of people can’t keep up with how fast the game moves and don’t bother to try (you really do have to work to watch hockey sometimes) and therefore declare it boring. (snark, snark)
So I’ve never been surprised by hockey’s lack of fans in the U.S.
There may yet be hope.
According to this story, the NHL’s popularity may be starting to outpace the NBA’s. And hey, it’s not the NFL, but it’s a start. I’m excited. Maybe finally there will be someone to watch the Stanley Cup playoffs with me, and I won’t be stuck by myself with my Doritos and my beer.