Friday, June 4, 2010

The Nebbishy Little Hobbit from Queens

Greetings Friends,

Another post about hockey today.

Some interesting goings-on in the hockey universe these past few days, and I can't resist the opportunity to comment. Albeit, this is one time I wish my words could reach a larger audience; say, readers of The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, or even the hockey bible, The Hockey News. Right now, this is my only outlet so, here goes:

I despise NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. And I want to smack Hockey Night in Canada's Ron McLean for being such a nice Canadian boy. The two spent eight contentious minutes together during the second intermission of Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Bettman brought his Texas sized shoulder chip with him, and McLean couldn't turn off the nice-guy persona for half a second. Ironically, the next day, Ron McLean played a key role in rescuing an individual from the Delaware River, whose ill-timed suicide attempt interrupted his lunch with Don Cherry. Kudos to him for playing the good Samaritan while Cherry stood by "supervising". But, the night before, he couldn't even save himself from the wrath of a nebbishy little hobbit from Queens, who has been ruling the NHL with an iron fist since 1993.

One thing I've learned as I've gotten older, is that sometimes it pays to open your mouth. Ron McLean has a few years on me, so he should know that. I am so sick and tired of watching (or listening to) flummoxed sports commentators lobbing up softballs to the league bigwigs. No one, with the indirect exception of HBO's

Real Sports host Bryant Gumbel has never confronted the big cheeses of any of the four major North American leagues with the tough questions. For example, Gumbel sat in his chair on the Real Sports set and berated deceased former NFL Players Union chief, Gene Upshaw, for his heartless treatment of debilitated, retired NFL players. He never spoke to Upshaw directly. Major League Baseball's Bud Selig pretty much got to skate through the whole steroid scandal, and I don't think the NBA's David Stern has been seen or heard from in years. Conversely, little Gary Bettman holds court with the media on a regular basis; he even hosts his own satellite radio show on XM. But, every time someone tries to get him to weigh in on the nitty gritty, he turns into Vlad the Obfuscator, and effectively blows off those questions with the fortitude of someone swatting black flies in cottage country.

Hockey is a great game. It is Canada's pride and joy, and Bettman makes no bones about his resentment of that. He does everything within his power to prevent deserving Canadian cities from acquiring franchises, instead letting teams languish in absurd places like Nashville, Raleigh North Carolina and Phoenix. He will sweat blood to keep them there instead of admitting it was a mistake for them to exist in the first place. Yet, the NFL has exercised its "my bad" reflex, by yanking teams out of poorly performing markets under cover of darkness. At least they are very choosy about who they admit to their "Good 'ol Boy" ownership club, as opposed to the NHL, which has been known to sell teams to scam artists. Hello? John Spano?

Sometimes, being a sports fan is a blight on the psyche. Often times, I ask myself, why do I care? The players and the leagues don't give a toss about their fans, as evidenced by the increasingly frequent labour disruptions, and prolonged (or lack of) negotiations necessary to settle them. Why should I  feel bad for unionized athletes who make millions, when I can't afford to go watch them play in person? And when the nebbishy hobbit who runs the league collects his tithes and traipses merrily on his way, it pisses me off even more. The juxtaposition of athletic prowess and die-hard allegiance barely makes sense to me anymore. It has become a one-sided relationship with the die hards giving all, and the powers that be not giving a crap.

Earlier this week, a couple of Canadian individuals organized a "Quit Facebook" drive. They urged Facebook users to delete their accounts in protest of Facebook's irresponsible handling of their personal information. I don't know how many people participated, but the irony is, you can't delete your Facebook account. You can only deactivate it. Once you become a sports fan, you're in for life. Try as you might to quit, you can't. You can sometimes "deactivate", but it never lasts. I've deactivated my Facebook account twice, and both times I've gone back.

Think; and have a great weekend.


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