Saturday, March 9, 2013

Another Good Reason to Like Hockey Players

ESPN, a colossal ESPN-centric entity that splits its time between savvy self-promotion and the occasional sports broadcast, has long received its fair share of criticism from multiple angles and various sources with axes to grind. Some of this criticism is significant and newsworthy in itself—such as when First Take’s Rob Parker got roasted, suspended, and then eventually let go for suggesting that Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III was insufficiently black.
RGIII’s whole left sleeve
white. Rob Parker was right!

We find it interesting that a discussion of race involving a team named the Redskins can, even in this day and age, have absolutely nothing to do with the team being named the Redskins, for God’s sake, but that’s a topic for another day on a different, much more mature blog.

Our gripe with ESPN, the Worldwide Leader in Sports and Also ESPN-Related ESPNinessTM, is far less socially significant and more centrally located in most people’s “who really gives a shit” category: that is, its tendency to occasionally and/or systematically forget that certain sports and/or leagues, such as the National Hockey League, actually exist.

There are dozens or perhaps hundreds of other sports that also get shortchanged when it comes to national news coverage, but that’s fine because nobody gives a shit about them.1

The NHL, despite Gary Bettman’s apparent best efforts, still really does exist, although fans are hard-pressed to find evidence of it on ESPN. Since 2004, for example, the network has broadcast the Scripps National Spelling Bee—by far the most athletically taxing of all spelling bees—seven times, and broadcast zero NHL games.2 In 2011, “the ESPN family of networks aired thirty-six hours of Main Event coverage”3 of the World Series of Poker—which is probably more like a sport than a spelling bee, but less so than, say, darts—and, again, zero hours of live NHL hockey.

And in the “In Memoriam” section of SportsCenter’s 2011 Year in Review, there was no mention of the deaths of Derek Boogaard, Ryan Rypien, or Wade Belak (the first two being active NHL players at the time of their deaths), or of the forty-three members of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in a plane crash in Minsk.4

Does this make the folks at ESPN bad people? No. Well, kinda, but not really. It does mean, though, that the network has a lot of work to do to make it up to, or even stay relevant to, American fans of hockey.

We view the following as an encouraging step in the right direction. Our wife, Dr./Mrs. Some Gal, would probably agree for very different reasons.5

1. We were going for kind of an irony angle here; not sure if we’ve quite pulled it off it not.
2. In ESPN’s defense, they only stopped broadcasting NHL games when it became apparent that they were going to continue to have to pay for it.
4. We understand that many, many athletes have died without making an ESPN end-of-year memorial segment, some of them likely being well-known and having played popular sports, but to overlook a disaster on the scale of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl crash is a bit galling. We don’t have a scrap of evidence to back this up, but we have managed to convince ourselves that the Marshall football team’s plane crash got more press than Lokomotiv in 2012, and that happened more than thirty years ago.
5. We are big fans of hockey and Muppets; the doctor/missus is a big fan of Henrik Lundqvist’s dreamy Swedish eyes. So everyone wins here.

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