I don’t know about you, but I miss the good old days. The days when I was young enough to sit and watch sports from the time I got home from school to after I got into bed. Or even in my college days, where class was optional and pizza was plentiful. He came and went from game to game, and maybe a third one if possible. And this was always the time of year that he loved the most. The Stanley Cup playoffs or the NBA playoffs alone may not be the biggest sporting event. March Madness would surely have something to say in that argument. But put them together and you could have a couple of months. Unfortunately, my college days are behind us, and with that comes the cruel fate of waking up at 6:30 a.m. every morning to join the rest of the world of work. Let’s just say that games that last until 1 a.m. and a love of sleep don’t usually mix very well. In any case, I can’t seem to find time to watch all the sports I used to do. So the question is what to choose? Let’s examine why the postseason, if any, is really worth sacrificing sleep.
The competition. I guess this would depend on your definition of good competition. In NHL you have top-down balance. Currently, the top two seeds in hockey have left before the conference final, and the top 4 seeds in the West withdrew in the first round. On the other hand, the NBA appears to be heavier at the top, leading some to argue that this contributes to better competition in the later rounds. I’d give the go-ahead for hockey here. I realize that there are many people who simply do not understand hockey and find it impossible to see. But for those of you who appreciate the incredible level of skill it requires, you will notice that hockey more than any other sport is played at the highest level during its postseason. While the fact that Oiler beat Red Wings in the first round may not be the best thing in terms of attracting fans to keep tuning in, it shows me that the league is ultra competitive from top to bottom. Chalk one for hockey.
The stars. This category may seem like a no-brainer to many, but not to me. Just for mere name recognition, most Americans would say that basketball has the biggest stars without a doubt. That may be true, but it seems the only reason we’ve heard of half their names is because we can easily find them in a police document. When it comes to promoting star players, no one focuses more on it than the NBA. But personally, I would rather be known to few than hated by many. Still, to be fair, I have to give it to the players, although it could be argued that since Jordan was gone for good, the Mario Lemieux name was the biggest in both sports until he retired earlier in the year.
The action. It’s not even close to me. While basketball may have that spectacular play per game that makes you jump out of your seat and scream, hockey is a constant barrage of high-intensity action, heavy hitting, jaw-dropping display of skill, and even the occasional fist fight. Ask Rasheed Wallace, who apparently feels that his team can play hard when it feels like it, and go all the way to the final. Give it a try in hockey, and you will probably get a piece of Plexiglas pierced through. Not to mention that a loss of concentration, while perhaps resulting in poor defense in the NBA, can result in something more dangerous in hockey, like a punch to the face. Hockey takes it safely.
Convenience. Sometimes you just want to get straight to the point and not bother sitting for two and a half hours of a game before the outcome is actually determined. This is where basketball definitely beats hockey. There is nothing worse, especially for the casual hockey fan (although some would say there is no such thing), than sitting down to watch an entire hockey game clicker in hand, and while quickly changing the channel to check the score of another game, lose a goal! On the other hand, if you watch most of an NBA game, you are likely to witness most of the score, as it is constant throughout the game. The real convenience of basketball is that everyone knows that you really only need to tune into the last quarter, if not just the last 5 minutes of an NBA game to see the best part. If you tried it in hockey, you would probably be out of luck and sometimes even a 1 goal game is already over for all intents and purposes. You may get lucky and stumble upon a game that heads into overtime every now and then, but you will usually find that the game is pretty much settled. So if you are looking to save time and simply tune in to the decisive time, the NBA is the game for you.
Overtime. Speaking of overtime, two words: sudden death. While a basketball game going into overtime can end in a 12-point beating win, postseason overtime hockey games always deliver the drama they deserve. No time limit, win the first goal. It doesn’t get better than that, okay?
Schedule. This is a category in which the NBA drives me crazy. What used to be a real selling point for me in the past has become another annoying by-product of the NBA’s main office. I understand that your main goal is to generate income, but do you really need to play only 2 games per night and spread the games from the first round over a period of two weeks, if not more? Some teams have almost 4 days off between games, just so the networks can extend their coverage. What’s the use of extra slots anyway, if they end up dropping viewership per night? For me, there is nothing better than two games at the same time to pique my interest. When TBS and TNT staggered their start times and showed 4 games per night between 7:00 p.m. M. And 1:00 a. M., My interest has never been greater. Now I can’t even keep track of who’s playing on a given night. At least the NHL moves its series, sometimes even scheduling two teams to face each other on consecutive nights. Score another for hockey.
Cheerleaders. This one clearly goes the way of the NBA, though think about the impact cheerleaders could have on the game of hockey. I was recently at an Islanders game on Long Island and witnessed my first hockey cheerleaders skating on the ice. Imagine your typical sexy cheerleader in the same tight-fitting uniform and short skirt, except now she’s carrying a snow shovel and skating fast on a very cold ice surface. Do I need to say more? Talk about something positive. Basketball takes this, but only because hockey hasn’t caught on yet.
So while basketball is clearly the most popular sport in this country, I would say that when it comes to the postseason, the Americans could miss out on the most exciting professional postseason tournament of all. Now if they could just put some smart Americans in charge of promoting the sport instead of the stupid Canadians who are apparently running the show, maybe this sport would finally take off in popularity. Oh cool down Canadians, I’m just kidding. Well not really, but I want to thank you for giving us the excellent Kenny versus Spenny TV show on CBC. I always wondered how long a human being could go without things like eating or sleeping when it came to a bet. Until next time, enjoy the playoffs, whatever they are.
RAC’S RANT will appear twice a month on SportsLizard.com