The June 20th, 1994 cover of Sports Illustrated.
It had to happen while I worked out in the gym earlier today: the end of the NHL season. Revealed from the
BSPN ESPN news ticker on my treadmill TV, since the TV couldn’t get NBC. It happened in double-overtime of a Game 5 clincher for the Los Angeles Kings, who won their 2nd championship in three years–on a Friday the 13th, of course. I was pining for a Game 6, mainly because my cable just had to quit on me today (I have made a habit of DVR-ing all the potential clinching games of the Stanley Cup Finals for the past three years, and this year is the first I did not do so, because I couldn’t in the first place), but also because I don’t want this sport to end just yet. To see it all end in five games is too soon. I don’t know whether to get mad on the New York Rangers (I should anyway; they ousted my Penguins), or Kings player Alec Martinez for being at the right place at the right time. (Actually, I’m mad at the SF Giants right now; they blew a 4-2 lead in the 9th and lost the game to a suckjob team.)
And you tell me, Miss Dee, there’s always the NBA Finals that you can watch! I’ll probably watch it, because there’s the potential of seeing LeBron lose another Finals and ABC/BSPN (I’m not changing that, so there) putting all their cameras on him being a crybaby. But aside from this would-be thrill, I haven’t been big on the NBA as I used to. Mainly because my favorite team, the Lakers, are on the slide–and who knows what will become of them next season, from Kobe’s health to who the hell will coach them. And I’m not too inclined to follow a league altogether where the supposed best player in the league is that overhyped ring-chaser who may have the skills but not the mental toughness, all the while hawking McDonald’s and wearing fake nerd glasses. (I’d say I prefer Kevin Durant over LeBron, because he’s just as good AND stuck with his team instead of abandoning it for another team with more potential to win a ring…but Durant also wears fake glasses on occasions, so I guess I’m shot in both feet.)
Five years ago, I was an avid NBA fan. June of 2009 saw the Lakers win their 15th championship, and I couldn’t be any happier. But around that same time, I was also following another team, in a different sports league, making quite a trip to the promised land. By the end of Game 2 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals, many were counting out the Pittsburgh Penguins to not win against the defending-champions Detroit Red Wings. The intriguing (and oh-so handsome) face of the Penguins’ star captain Sidney Crosby drew me in. Before that historic Game 7 between the Penguins and Red Wings, I made a bet with some friends that the Pens would win that game. I knew nothing about hockey history and stats that rarely favored away teams in a Game 7 championship round; I betted on them ’cause I was the only one doing so, and I like being the stand-out in my group, even if, at the time, I was getting ragged on. That was before that Game 7.
If only I had some money on my bet then. I would have used it to go that Laker parade days later.
You can thank the Penguins for making me a hockey fan. And who knew following hockey would get you stuff like this…
I still followed the NBA as well, but in 2011, the joy I once had for that sport started to leave. As tough as it was seeing my Lakers get ousted the way they did in the 2011 playoffs, I sensed an aura to the league that I couldn’t agree with. The rise of the overhyped ring-chasers in Miami. Absurd showboating in the Slam Dunk contests. Lame-ass Twitter battles between players and pushing and shoving the only “fights” seen. Equally lame-ass penalties and political correctness being enforced. Oh, and the rise of seeing those goddamned piece-of-horseshit fake nerd glasses on players. Coincidentally, the Lakers started to slide as all this was happening. I expected it, given that they were no longer being coached by Phil Jackson, and their competition in the West was younger and stronger. I couldn’t even force myself to fully root for other rising teams such as the Warriors and the Clippers. And by June of 2012, I had the feeling that the NBA was no longer my game.
But, at the same time, the NHL rescued me from my basketball woes. Sure, I was disgruntled over seeing the Penguins making an early exit in the playoffs that year, but everything else after that was quite fun. There was more of a natural, likable aura to hockey that left the NBA. Maybe it’s because they just happen to keep things interesting, from surprise teams like the Columbus Blue Jackets of this past season that happen to win, to the unpredictability of the playoffs. The kind of run the LA Kings made this season is something you probably won’t see in the NBA. One may groan over the lack of a dynasty in the current NHL, but parity among the league in terms of “who rules” is an equally intriguing storyline as a team who goes back-to-back. (If anything, the Kings could be the closest thing to an NHL “dynasty”, with their three straight Western Conference appearances and two Stanley Cups. And yes, I was rooting for the Sharks in that first round.)
The remake: the June 16th, 2014 cover of Sports Illustrated. Spot the wrong in this pic.
This season alone proves that the NHL does not deserve another lockout ever, but the same kind of props that the other three major pro sports get. Hell, even soccer and college football get more shine than the NHL. (Maybe it’s a BSPN thing.) Its Stanley Cup Finals may slack behind in ratings compared to the NBA Finals, but they can always count on me every year for viewership. Sports Illustrated made a little error up there; the current NBA is just as cold as the ice NHL players skate on. There’s no unpredictability, no surprise winners in this year’s NBA playoffs–the kind of excitement that cannot be manufactured, the kind of excitement I saw in this year’s NHL playoffs. And, as far as I know, I have yet to see an NHL player wear fake nerd glasses and brainlessly “thank God” in their victory speeches. And THAT is a major plus.