The Best Rivalry In Sports Redux, NHL, NFL…

The amount of words that will be written and spoken about the greatest rivalry in sports in the next seven days will be immense. We will hear about every possible angle, every angle about an angle and almost every human interest story involving two teams from two big cities. And at the end of it all, the next seven days will come down to this, something we’ve expected and planned for since October 16th of 2003…

The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees will compete in a best-of-seven American League Championship series for the right to move onto the World Series.

If we look back on this sometimes bizarre Major League Baseball season, we all knew this would happen. Like two great armies that have been arming for battle, this has been the Red Sox/Yankees season. Tom Gordon, Keith Foulke, Curt Schilling, Paul Quantrill, Gary Sheffield, Orlando Cabrera and that A-Rod guy have all been enlisted in the modern-day equivalent of Baseball World War II. There will be no sweeps, no easy wins, no shortcuts. The winner of the Seven-Game Battle will have earned it.

And this time, we actually have a chance. There’s no reason to think that the Sox cannot win this series or are inferior to the Yankees in any way. On paper, the pitching edge should go to the BoHos with the offensive edge slightly toward the Pinstripers. However, anything is possible in this series and we should expect to see just that. It will be draining to watch and probably painful at times. Nothing less than a Red Sox series win will suffice and truly begin the next great Sox era. Ownership and the front office have done everything possible to load up for the big run and this is it. Forget the 80-some odd years since a Boston world title, forget the ‘Yankees 26, Red Sox 0′ claims, forget everything. Seven games, four wins, one AL Champion.

Sox/Yankees, round two, is about to begin. Ding ding.

Other baseball thoughts:

–Was there a worse-coached team in the playoffs than Minnesota? To have the Yankees down potentially 0-2 in their home field and not pull a relief pitcher that has thrown nine straight balls? Save bringing back Johan Santana, YOU DO EVERYTHING POSSIBLE to win that game. After that win, it was academic that the Yankees would win two in the Metrodome. Stupid decisions lead to stupid losses. Would anyone be against the whole AL Central being disbanded?

–After losing two come-from-behind games, including a crushing one Sunday afternoon, the Astros are toast in Game 5 vs. the Braves. I’d be surprised if this one is settled by less than four runs. Again, the Braves ruin everything fun in baseball so this is expected.

–The Cardinals? As expected. Despite their so-so starters, this is a very good team.

I don’t have much in the way of non-sports stuff this week, so here’s some…

Football

–If I hear one more Peyton Manning/Colts on-air blowjob, I’m going to implode. Seriously, enough. We know they have a great offense and throw a lot of TD passes. Last time I checked though, Manning hasn’t won any Super Bowl MVPs. Wait a minute, he’s never got there in the first place. Until this team wins even an AFC title, shut the f**k up about the Colts.

–On the same vein, is it a rule that every time the Ravens play a Sunday night/Monday night game, Ray Lewis has to be miked up? Yes, we get it: he’s intense and yells a lot. He fires up his teammates and even threatens some (QB Kyle Boller looked absolutely frightened on Sunday when Lewis was screaming at him to grow up and play). I’m surprised he hasn’t run in on offense and just taken over at whatever spot he sees fit to play. He is the defensive version of Manning in how the media treats him, surprising for someone that was suspected of murder a few seasons ago. The fact he plays on a team that also holds cocaine trafficking middleman Jamal Lewis and just plain annoying Deion Sanders merits some sort of award.

Hockey

Working for a professional hockey team, you get to hear a lot of talk about the NHL and especially the labor dispute/lockout that currently has the sport on ice (har har..puns!) for an indefinite period of time. I’ve been asked quite a bit on my thoughts on the subject like whether I’m happy because the AHL will be the only game in town, what’s really good for the game, etc. So, here we go…

Yes, the lockout is what the game needed.

1) The NHL and its teams have been hemmoraging money for years and if you’re to be a major player on the national team sports scene, you have to be profitable or at least have a reasonable plan to get there. TV plays a huge part of that as the NFL and NBA will attest as television revenue cures a lot of evils. To show how badly the sport has suffered on tv, their recent deal with NBC has no guaranteed money involved – the first time that’s ever happened with a major league.

2) The sport is most popular in Canada, yet a small amount of teams actually play there. Hmmm. Imagine the entire NFL except for the Patriots, Cowboys, Bengals and Raiders playing in Canada.

3) One side (the owners) want a salary cap. The others (the players) don’t. That’s a big start. One big check for the owners’ side: 75% of revenue went to pay their salaries, the biggest discrepancy in any sport.

But yet, there are still those that press on and make believe everything’s ok, that the sanctity of the game should be upheld, that the NHL could make the next big turn anyday thanks to ‘crossover’ players like Jarome Igilna. Heard of him? Exactly. The league couldn’t do it with the sport’s greatest star – Wayne Gretzky – and they will be hard-pressed to do it again.

But I’m not one to complain without solutions…

1) Shorten the schedule to 60 games. Currently, they play 80 games. It’s called addition by subtraction. (Actually, I believe every sport could pare down their schedule by about 10%.)

2) Reduce the amount of teams to 20 and make them in markets that will support them. I’d say put half the teams in Canada and half the teams in the U.S. including Boston, New York, Chicago (under new ownership), Minnesota and Detroit among them. I wouldn’t even put NHL games in huge buildings unless they’ve had a history of supporting the game. Start small and build big again, even if a few guys that shouldn’t be there in the first place end up losing their jobs.

3) Help increase scoring and bring in the OT shootout. While defense may win games, offense sells tickets and brings in TV ratings. Purists may hate it, but purists also hated the Wild Card in baseball too. Survival of the sport is what’s important here and if that means putting some older people out of the loop, so be it.

4) Get rid of Gary Bettman. He’s not a friendly face and is arguably the coldest and most geniunely unlikeable of all the commissioners/presidents of league sports. He’s put his head in the sand and got marketing the sport all wrong, focusing away from the hits and too much in the history, which leads me to….

5) The historical/traditional attitude must go. I think they’re trying to do this with revamping the NHL logo (yeah, that’ll bring ‘em back) but they’re missing the point. The sport is very hard to figure out, even when it comes to all of those trophies for post-season awards. Making the sport easier to figure out should be a no-brainer, especially if you’re pitching it to a dominantly American audience whose attention span becomes shorter by the day. And we know every sport has a rich history, but when that becomes the calling card of the what the league represents? I’m not saying ignore the past, but embracing the present and future should be the main focus.

6) And bring back the Brass Bonanza as every team’s official goal song…

do do do doo doo doo doo doo, do do do do do dooooo…..

Thanks for reading,

nason