I do not spend a lot of time talking about the NHL here for the simple reason that I do not believe that I understand any of the subtleties of ice hockey better than the average/casual viewer. That is not to say that I do not enjoy watching ice hockey because, in particular, I very much enjoy watching the Stanley Cup playoffs. This year there is a great storyline that has developed around the Las Vegas Golden Knights.
If ever there were a “Cinderella Hockey Team”, the Knights must fit that mold. This is the first year of existence for the franchise; this is a team created from the culls of every other team in the league. By expectation, this team should have been eliminated from playoff consideration sometime around Christmas; nevertheless, the Knights have just won the second round of the playoffs in the Western Conference and are poised to take a shot at being in the Stanley Cup Finals.
There have been plenty of Cinderella stories in sports, but none are quite like the Golden Knights:
- The Whiz Kids of 1950 were a shock to the baseball world. A Phillies team that had been the doormat of the National League for the last 25-30 years suddenly stood up on its hind legs and won the NL pennant. Nevertheless, the Phillies had been a franchise that was in existence for about 70 years at the time; there were not Johnny-come-latelies.
- The Miracle Mets of the late 60s won the World Series with a frantic rally at the end of the regular season and a continues run of inspired play in the post-season. The Mets were close to an expansion team; they had been in existence for less than a decade. However, unlike the golden Knights, the Mets’ inaugural season was a disaster. In 1962, the Mets as a team posted a record of 40-120; it is a modern standard of futility.
- A couple of years ago, Leicester City shocked the English football world and won the English Premier League. Prior to the start of the season, betting shops in England gave 5,000-1 odds that Leicester would not do that – – but they did.
Those three teams provided huge surprises in the sports world – – but I do not think that any of their exploits were as surprising as what the Golden Knights have done so far this year.
Speaking of sports in the playoffs, I feel compelled to say something about the TV coverage of the NBA Playoffs and it is a disturbing trend. I think this began with the coverage of/fascination with Jack Nicholson sitting courtside at Laker games; he was a celebrity and took an interest in NBA games in LA and drew media attention. Around the same time, the Knicks were the team that had Spike Lee at courtside for every one of their games. Unlike Nicholson, he did not just watch the games; he was animated in his fandom in his courtside seat. The TV directors loved to catch him in his exuberance.
This fascination has gotten out of hand. Now we have far too much coverage of Drake at courtside during Raptors’ games and/or Kevin Hart during Sixers’ games and/or Rob Riggle at any game anywhere. [Aside: I have never found Rob Riggle to be funny; and to me, there is nothing more painful to endure than someone trying to be funny when he/she is absolutely not funny.]
- Memo to NBA Playoff TV Directors: The product you are putting on the air to sell to the public involves athletes on the court and not celebrities – – or in some cases marginal celebs – – who show up courtside as much to be seen there as to watch the game itself. Dial back that coverage more than just a little bit.
Now, if Queen Elizabeth were to show up at a game in a courtside seat, that would be newsworthy, and you should let us know about it – briefly. Other than that …
If my following of the latest in NFL contract news is correct, the four highest players in the NFL for now are:
- Matthew Stafford – – $27M next year
- Jimmy Garoppolo – – $27.5M next year
- Kirk Cousins – – $28M next year
- Matt Ryan – – $30M next year.
I do not begrudge any of them even a single nickel of their contracts, but I do have to point out that none of them has won anything of any consequence in any of their careers. Yes, I know that Matt Ryan led the Falcons to a Super Bowl, but I contend that the total collapse of the Falcons in that game surrendering the 28-3 lead they had in the second half of the game negated the fact that they were in the game in the first place. Expectations for these four gentlemen are – and ought to be sky-high.
Finally, Dwight Perry had this comment in the Seattle Times regarding another instance where the world of sports intersected the world of politics:
“Texas Wesleyan baseball coach Mike Jeffcoat nixed a recruit from Colorado because that state’s ‘liberal politicians’ legalized marijuana use, so the school fired him.
“Or as eye-for-an-eye advocates prefer to frame it, he weeded himself out.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………