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I hate to be that guy. The columnist that tries to put everything into “context.” The Bruins didn’t just win Lord Stanley’s Cup Wednesday night, there has to be a larger issue here, right? Man, I think sometimes contextualizing the moment is as hackneyed as a joke from a Mike & Molly preview, about Charlie Sheen and “Winning,” or Oprah’s couch and Tom Cruise.
(And, yes, this is coming from a guy who was given the Kim Kardashian/Bret Lockett affair story, and decided to define how it’s an indicator of being a fan in today’s world. I don’t think I mentioned I mentioned either KK or Lockett until 1,000 words in.)
Sometimes it isn’t appropriate to ask questions like: What does this victory mean? What contemporary issue can I compare this to? Is Roberto
LungoalLuongo the hockey equivalent to LeBron James? If that’s true, is Tim Thomas like J. Kidd?
Everything shouldn’t be a macro issue, so instead, I’m going to sit down and tell you who benefited from Wednesday’s events. In other words, who won? It’ll be crazy like Cruise on Oprah, or Oprah yelling “You’re gonna get a car! And You’re gonna get a car”. Except replace Oprah with Sheen saying, “You’re winning! And You’re winning!?”
98.5 the Sports Hub’s inception came with the caveat that they would HAVE to champion the Bruins, because the station carried the team’s games. And though, at the time in Boston, the Bruins were definitively the 4th team in terms of popularity on the totem pole – the Sports Hub did what its competition, WEEI, failed to in recent years…tap into the Bruins fan-base.
It was a logical move, really. WEEI’s condescending coverage included a weekly 20-minute segment, named “Hockey Talk,” on the now defunct Dale & Holley show. If that wasn’t insulting enough, roughly 85% of the talk derived from Holley’s infatuation with eccentric Pittsburgh Penguins play-by-play man, Mike Lange.
So, The Sports Hub filled the void. Toucher & Rich - who admittedly are more of fans than talking heads – provide a light and comical view of the team, Gresh & Zo are intolerable but air during mid-days and people are working anyway, and Felger & Mazz give more poignant takes (this is due to Felger covering the team as a beat writer in the late 90′s thus giving him credence).
‘EEI waited too long to get on board with their coverage. Listening to WEEI’s trite analysis - even though the station’s affiliation with ESPN gives them better guests – was embarrassing. To that end, management decided to get rid of the station’s one credible hockey host, former B’s play-by-play man, Dale Arnold. Dale’s relegation to fill-in-duty was a seminal moment in the radio wars. However, maybe a bigger seminal moment was management electing to insert Arnold into other programs to give their coverage some profundity. I’m sure Dale used this as leverage for better opportunities down the road.
This is not to say The Sports Hub’s coverage was flawless. For example, Thursday when Felger posed the rhetorical question, “What changed this year for the Bruins?” He came back from break answering, “Number 1: Tim Thomas, and great goal-tending.” That’s a valid response, but this was after weeks of Felger trotting out the take that, “Hot goaltenders are overrated.”
Whatever, I’d rather have him giving informed opinions with conviction than ‘EEI transparently BSing their coverage. And, very fittingly, the Sports Hub’s weeknight host, Damon Amendolara, went the distance the night of the Game 7 — hosting a post-game show until 6 in the morning.
The maligned Jacbos ownership group, which finally won their first cup since buying the franchise in 1975, pushed for the current salary cap instituted in the league. An easy argument can be made that they preferred this system so they could continually be cheap; however, that argument is specious. Ownership went above the cap to grab Tomas Kaberle.
Tim Thomas becomes Dennis Quaid’s character in The Rookie. Only if, you know, Quaid’s character won the Cy Young (twice) and a World Series ring. Thomas’ self-confidence in post-game pressers seemed to resonate with the team. You know when you get into a verbal tiff with someone, and you think of something you could have said that would have been PERFECT — only like 15 minutes after the fact? Well, Thomas knew to say whatever retraction you came up with. Always clever, daring yet calculating — kind of like his virtuoso performance in the playoffs.
In my review of Those Guys Have All the Fun (to be published later today), I observe how a great deal of the oral history of ESPN drills into TV production deals. One deal I omitted from my review was when the NHL, under commissioner Garry Bettman, decided to opt out of a deal with ESPN/ABC. Bettman, who came off as extremely petulant, cites being low-balled by ESPN at the time. He felt ESPN tried taking advantage of the league’s precarious situation (the NHL had just come off an intensive labor dispute, costing the league its season).
For years, the NHL struggled to climb back into America’s conscious. One prevalent issue has been the league battling a bad TV deal where NBC neglects the product. NBC sticks Finals games on VS, which impedes the NHL’s efforts in gaining the sport’s widespread popularity back.
But these last two years? Chicago and Boston winning it all? Bettman and the NHL couldn’t have asked for anything better — well, maybe, the Rangers getting involved.
And say what you want about all those aforementioned issues — the product is where it needs to be. These playoffs were freakin’ awesome. As Kevin Paul Dupont from the Boston Globe appropriately wrote before Game 7, we’re all losing to some degree, because the playoffs are ending. A hell of a ride.
That’s not to mention all the abeyance of the Stanley Cup Finals ceremony, which lacks an analogous. Watching the B’s pass one another the cup, skate around in pure elation, all-the-while knowing the blood-sweat-and-tears put into earning it – was an accomplishment I was as cognizant as ever about.
Your sport is back. They’ll be band wagoners, sure. That stuff comes with the territory. But that’s fine, right? I never understood fans of something relatively obscure, like an unknown band or movie, protecting their subject like it’s deleterious if it gained notoriety. Doesn’t make sense. Besides that’s all aesthetics anyway – band wagoners come and go – what an emotional 2 months, what an emotional 39 years.
I wrote, over and over again, how B’s fans justifiably had the pre-2004 Red Sox irrational logic in terms of: questioning the coach, berating the players, and their overall moribund outlook at all times. Well, this title is for you more than anything else. And the way it was accomplished. Jesus. I mean, while it was happening and your blood pressure was raised to astronomical levels, it probably didn’t seem so grand — But now? Would you have it any other way?
The answer is a resounding ‘No.’ Because that’s the glory of sports. It felt that way during the 2004 Red Sox season, when the team was trailing the Yankees 3 games to none during the ALCS. It felt that way when the Rams stormed back in Super Bowl 36. Championships are never as gratifying immediately because the process is so petrifying. You never appreciate it, until you can put it into CONTEXT — and down the road – when you can adequately define what actually happened, details are distorted. Right now, you’re a champion, even if it was grotesque — it is picturesque.