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With the Bruins dropping the puck on their run to the Stanley Cup Finals on Thursday night, and the Celtics ready to tip off against the Heat on their journey to grab title No. 18, I thought now would be a most appropriate time to partake in one of my favorite and most cliché sports arguments ever: Which is better? And in this version we’ll tackle the playoffs—NHL vs. NBA.
Has this been done before? Yup. Is it a trite argument? Sure. Did I have no other column ideas for the week and thus resorted to a stock piece of writing in order to bang out something before my weekend deadline? Damn right. But you already started reading anyway, so you might as well finish, because no one likes a quitter, and you’re not a quitter right? Didn’t think so.
As always, the arguments put forth are completely subjective and unsubstantiated. The awarding of points is entirely arbitrary. OK? We ready? Lets do it.
The NBA Playoffs. Good job NBA, really went for broke on that one. I appreciate any organization that makes me look creative and original in comparison, but this is just pathetic. You have millions of dollars dedicated to PR and advertising and the best thing you could come up with is “Insert Name of League Here” Playoffs? I mean baseball has the World Series and football has the Super Bowl, so shouldn’t you at least try to break a sweat coming up with a name for the biggest series of games in your sport? How about the “After 82 Games, They Finally Count” Playoffs or “The Teams in Our League that Are Actually Above .500” Playoffs, the “We’re Not Vying for Lottery Picks” Playoffs or simply, “Where Timeouts Happen.”
Everything the NBA does wrong, the NHL does right. Stanley Cup Playoffs. Holy crap, sorcerer, let the battle for Middle Earth begin, what a friggin’ name. Stanley Cup, that has some gravitas. Plus I know what’s at stake just by reading the title: A playoff, for a cup, owned by some dude name Stanley. If that doesn’t get you excited, you probably don’t get jazzed for the Major League Soccer’s Nana Matha’s Crystal Candy Dish Playoffs either…and if that’s the case, we just can’t be friends.
Round 1: NBA 0, NHL 28.
Again, this is no contest. The NBA has a dinky gold basketball teetering on a wastepaper basket. Officially, it’s called the Larry O’Brien Trophy, but nobody knows that, not even Larry O’Brien’s family. In case you’re wondering (and I’m sure you’re not) the trophy got its name from a former NBA commissioner, who also happened to serve as the postmaster general under President Lyndon Johnson. That’s right, not an army commander or Secretary of State or something cool and important, but the postmaster general. The guy responsible for getting you your Netflix and ESPN The Magazine is the same dude the NBA decided to name their most prestigious award after. In another note, Karl Malone’s career just became exponentially more ironic and humorous.
The NHL counters with perhaps the most badass of all trophies—Lord Stanley’s Cup. (I won’t go into all the history, nuances, rules and traditions of this piece of hardware, mostly because this column is already going to top out at over 1,500 words, so I suggest you take a few moments to check out the Cup’s Wikipedia page, it’s for the betterment of your life.)
Three things stand out about Lord Stanley’s Cup: 1) It’s got the word “Lord” in it, which automatically makes it better than everything else. If it’s works for Jesus Christ, it sure as hell can work for a hockey trophy, 2) It has it’s own security staff, and 3) the winning team gets to drink beer from it.
Hey Larry O’Brien, does your trophy share a name with my Savior? Well, does it have its own entourage? Can your trophy aide me in achieving complete inebriation? No, didn’t think so. Get back to work O’Brien, I’m waiting for my copy of Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail, and it’s not going to deliver itself.
Round 2: NBA (Negative) 100 (that’s what you get for naming your trophy after a mailman, you knobs), NHL 431.
If you haven’t seen any of the NHL’s playoff commercials, check them out on YouTube (there’s also some hilarious parodies here). The commercials rewind some of hockey’s most memorable plays and asks what would it be like if these things didn’t happen. There’s one that touches me especially, with Ray Bourque, as an Ave, finally raising the Stanley Cup after 22 years of NHL service, and asks “What if Bourque didn’t believe in one more year?” It’s a bittersweet moment for any Bruins fan, and it’s done really well. I’ve watched that commercial a good dozen times and still get chills.
That spot, and the others like it for the Stanley Cup Playoffs are poignant; they remind us of the beauty of hockey, the gracefulness of its heroes, the way a simple game can be played by common men and result in extraordinary….OH HELLLLLL YES. DID YOU SEE THAT COMMERCIAL FOR A NEW SEASON OF THE CLOSER ON TNT! AHHH SH*T, AND LEVERAGE IS ON RIGHT AFTER THE SPURS/MAVS GAME?! CLEAR THE EFFING DVR, I GONNA HAVE ME A “MÉNAGE À TNT” WITH KYRA SEDGWICK AND TIMOTHY HUTTON!
Round 3: NBA 13, NHL 500 (What can I say, TNT knows drama, and I love me some drama.)
The NBA has all of its big names playing for the “Dude in Charge of the Post Office” Trophy: Kobe, LeBron, Wade, Dwight, Durant, and for at least one round, Garnett, Rondo, and Pierce. These guys are superstars; so much so, they can get away with anything. Kobe passed off what happened in that Eagle, Colorado massage room as consensual. Him and LeBron made it OK to be humored by puppets that embodied several African-American stereotypes, Howard convinced me that you can eat McRibs and still looked as jacked as him and Durant is considered famous even though he plays in Oklahoma, a state whose prior claim to fame was being the setting of an insufferable Steinbeck novel.
The NHL doesn’t quite match up. You got your marquee names like Crosby (who I think still lives at his boss’s house) and Ovechkin (who is Boris from the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show personified), but after that, their star power is weak in contrast to the NBA. I guess there are stars like Patrick Kane, who was the cover boy for the video game NHL ’10 despite punching a cabbie in the face over a couple of dollars. Or, there’s the Swedish National Team, who after a poor Olympic showing tricked everyone into letting them play for another championship under the pseudonym “Detroit Red Wings.” Impressive feats that a normal person couldn’t get away with, but not nearly as impressive as being global icons whilst passing off racially stereotypical puppets, alleged rape, and any food that McDonald’s serves as acceptable.
Round 4: NBA 231, NHL 492
For the most part, the NBA Playoffs are exciting and fun to watch—that’s the caveat, “the most part.” For the rest of the part, they’re dull, slow, and predictable. Except in the case of a blowout (which is dull in its own way) the last few minutes of every game, without fail, take about a half hour to play. The sequence goes a little like this: Foul, whistle, free throws, timeout, commercial, Timothy Hutton in Leverage, back from commercial, inbound pass, turnover, turnover, foul, foul, timeout, George Lopez still has a show?, whistle, whistle, foul, goddamn overtime, uncontested lay up, winner. Yes, I understand the strategy of fouling. Yes, I understand the need for TV timeouts. Yes, George Lopez is marginally entertaining and probably deserves a show because there’s a huge Hispanic demographic, but not many Hispanic TV stars. But no, I don’t like it…. Well, except for George Lopez, he has his moments.
The NHL playoffs are more exciting than the NBA’s due to the fact that there’s actually a chance of upsets (see: Sharks, San Jose). In the NBA, we all know the 2 or 3 teams that will compete for the “Cliff from Cheers” Trophy, it’s rarely a surprise. Also, the NHL smartly solved all the problems the NBA has with their games. Hey, you want to a hack a dude from the other team, be my guest, but you’re going to sit in this little box for two minutes next to a random fat guy who’s wearing a suit and a headset. Want a timeout? OK, you get one, but only one, so use it wisely. Can’t settle this in 60 minutes? Fine, next goal wins though. These simple rules make hockey flow and make it exciting. Sure, the NBA could never do this by the very nature of the game i.e. they don’t play defense and need numerous commercials to play exorbitant contracts, but I’ve never been a nature fan, much less that of the NBA’s.
Round 5 and Final Score: NBA 202, NHL a perfect 513.
That was fairly simple and straightforward. Glad we could finally put this argument to rest, forever, with no possible counterpoints. But whatever your flavor may be, NHL or NBA, I suggest you just sit back, put everything else aside and enjoy some of the most riveting, entertaining and star studded television on this time of the year—HawthoRNe, with Jada Pinkett Smith.