Wednesday, November 25, 2009

WRIST SHOTS: GIVING THANKS FOR HOCKEY

I'm going to come right out and say this, and I know faithful reader(s) of this blog will be astonished by this Thanksgiving Eve admission. But here goes:

I am thankful for hockey.

There. I'm glad that's off my chest.

As I get older, I find that following professional sports doesn't pay dividends like it used to. It was once a fantastic and fun diversion to follow your favorite teams and players, revel over the incredible winning plays and improbable comebacks, and agonize over the crushing defeats and missed opportunities. But it's an emotional investment that I find myself unable to immerse myself in. And after being prescribed medication for high blood pressure, I realized that living and dying with your team just isn't worth it.

Photo courtesy of APHowever, hockey is a fantastic sport to watch, follow, discuss, enjoy--and get borderline crazy over. It's fast paced with passes, hits and goals happening in the blink of an eye, and team momentum changing just as quickly. Some of the best talent the sport has ever seen is on the ice right now (OVIE! SID! MARTY!), and overall the NHL is highly competitive with every game worth watching and every team having a legitimate shot at the playoffs. It also features actual skilled athletes that are in shape, not morbidly obese men crashing into each other for 5 seconds before resting, chemically enhanced he-men swatting 600 foot dingers, or (god forbid) rednecks driving cars real fast in a circle. It's a true team sport in which defense is rewarded. It's the best sporting event to watch live, and at home it benefits the most from a widescreen, flicker-free HD broadcast. Additionally, there's very little dead time for color analysts to blather incessantly about the previous play, and for showing replays from 14 different angles. It's as close to perfect as you can get (despite commissioner Gary Bettman's endless attempts to screw it up).

The best thing about the NHL right now is that the casual fan has either tuned out since the lockout, or just aren't compelled to pay attention to it anymore. This is the best thing that could happen to a hockey fan. Who wants random people at work talking about the Rangers and Devils in the playoffs who didn't see one regular season game? Who needs people suddenly wearing their team's paraphernalia (sometimes in shades of pink-oh the horror!) only when they're playing well? Not me. I'm quite happy being a hockey fan that only has to discuss hockey with OTHER HOCKEY FANS. I used to bemoan the fact that ESPN and their ubiquitous SportsCenter barely covers the NHL, but now I cherish that reality. Everything ESPN touches turns to shit (Monday Night Football, NBA, sports highlight shows), so I'm happy that they don't give the sport the time of day. This way, I'm 100% sure I don't need to watch.

Yes, I'm thankful that hockey exists, one of the best things Canada has ever invented (along with back bacon, Bill Shatner and alcoholism). HOORAY HOCKEY!

AND LET'S GO DEVILS!

(I had to slip that in.)

Photo courtesy of AP