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Monday, February 22, 2010

I’m not a hockey guy, but...

What I mean is, like soccer, it’s better in person than on TV, least for me. Both are niche sports though in this country, and while their fans would love to see wider adoption, I don’t think they care if the *rest* of the country gets them or not. The few ravenous hockey fan friends I have will yank your shirt over your head with uppercuts o’ plenty if you think otherwise.

It’s not that I have a problem with NBC not showing an early-round marquee matchup on it’s main HD channel, but rather, it’s non-HD sister channel further on up the road on MSNBC.

The logical part of my brain understands why they would do it from an ad revenue perspective: Never mind that the network had early on eclipsed the ratings for Torino, figure skating is their biggest event, typically. Hockey though?

*shakes head in a sorrowful way*

Theoretically, it’s possible for NBC to “sell” the sport. Using soccer-slash-the beautiful game as an ad model, that game learned long ago how to incorporate signage within camera view as well as superimposed graphics from sponsors.

The problem is that this approach only works where the sport is ingrained within the culture of the country that plays it (and has played from birth), because fans will sit through a long game sans commercial breaks.

Here, hockey and soccer haven’t reached levels of nationalist fervor the way baseball, football or basketball have.

Ultimately, fervor becomes adoption on par with how soccer is in Brazil, cricket in..., etc. The other three American sports though, have that vibe.

Kobe and the Lakers, Jeter and the Yankees, or Manning and the Colts all think they can beat any team in the world in their respective sports. (Does the L.A. Galaxy really think it can beat Manchester United or AC Milan?)

The Olympics though is the one time that Americans can truly say they’re competing on an international level in a team sport, against the best in the world.

Back to skating, I suspect those fans view their sport much the same way, in that they could care less who else watches. If the saying goes that people only care about hockey during the Olympics, then the same must apply times ten for figure skating because I can’t explain the ratings, nor the interest.

Thing is, while I might remember “personalities” like Dorothy Hamill or Scott Hamilton, I couldn’t once tell you what performance of theirs got them their medal. I never once yelled “YEAH! USA, MOTHERFUCKER!” in a bar after they won.

It took Tonya Harding hiring Moron No. 1 to whack Nancy Kerrigan for me to take notice of the sport. In that regard, I suspect a few watch figure skating the way they watch NASCAR, for the crashes.

At the risk of explaining two sports I don’t really follow to their fans, Olympic “team” sports frown on letting your individual freak fly, but not individual sports like figure skating. There, style matters.

To a blue-collar, fight-loving Old Time Hockey fan who prizes teamwork, the “Look at me!” aspect of figure skating must drive them nuts.*

The flamboyance that drives sports the rest of the year, in every other league around the world, gets set aside every four years for the good of team and country. That’s the problem eating at me today and likely the real reason hockey fans are really pissed; it’s a sense of disrespect they feel NBC showed the sport and the teamwork they value.

The network focused on the sequins instead of the team.

I’m not a hockey guy. It was an early-round match between two teams likely seeing each other in the medal rounds. And face it, with cable nowadays, *true* fans still got to see the game (HD or not). But I watched that entire thing because the host country, hockey in its blood, ice in its whatever, got handled the entire way and eventually lost. There was drama there.

More than there is with a triple Salchow. Unless there’s a fall, then I’m watching.

*Look at the non-hockey, non-figure skating fan explain the dynamic between the two!

1 comment:

Chris Baccus said...

Looking forward to your thoughts on curling... NBC or MSNBC?