War Without End

The Buffalo Sabres didn’t make the playoffs.  They traded their captain away.  Ryan Miller is selling his townhouse.  We’re booing too much.  It’s a tough life, being a Buffalo sports fan, and I’m not even going into the hand-wringing over what the Bills are doing in the draft.  It seems like forever since we were truly comfortable with the people in charge of our teams, the choices they make.  At best we can offer a lame “Well, at least they made some changes!” when looking at the new coaches, but for many, it’s not enough.  The back office people are all the same, and while many of us are hoping there will be some significant changes in players on the field/ice, well, we’ll see what happens.  Fitzpatrick and Pominville are both gone, both guys who were liked here as much for their nice-guy personalities than for contributions to the cause.  A few shining moments here and there, a ton of mediocrity, and a hearty shrug as they pass through the door.

What does it take to change this attitude here?  There’s an adversarial feel to the team/fan/media dynamic much of the time, does winning alone fix that?  Do you have to win the Stanley Cup or a Super Bowl?  Just make the playoffs?  It can’t be that last one, at least for the Sabres, as just squeaking in and getting eliminated didn’t help much.  Bills fans might kill for that now, but knowing this city, that buys ’em six months, tops.

It’s like people have forgotten that sports are fun.  I watched the Sabres game the other night, and had a blast.  Despite the fact they were eliminated from the playoffs.  Stop crossing our arms and sitting on our hands because we don’t like their breakout play.  If watching hockey or football makes you miserable, and you can’t help but take it out on your fellow fans, why do you still do it?  Did you forget there are other forms of entertainment?  Or are you afraid of being called a bandwagon fan when you hear about a win streak and start watching again?  I won’t call you that.

I didn’t want this to come out like a “quit booing, dummy” post, but it does seem like our go-to move.  It reflects poorly on a city that loves their sports teams as much as anywhere.  Let’s make next season, a season to be positive.  Let’s cheer again.  Let’s support a player who makes a mistake.  We can’t control the team on the ice or field, or what the media writes, but we are in charge of ourselves.  Be happy.  Have fun.

See you at the draft.

A Response to GeekDad’s Open Letter to the NHL

My worlds, they have collided.  I read GeekDad (via Wired) fairly often, as there’s often great gaming and science content there, and that’s of interest to me and my son/daughters.  I was quite surprised to see an article there about hockey, combining my two blog-lives in one place.  Unfortunately, it’s not a positive thing – it’s about the insane level of violence that marred the beginning of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Look, we’ve all talked it to death over the past week, and I’m not going to re-hash it.  Shanny got some of these suspensions wrong.  The jumping elbow-to-the-head isn’t a ‘hockey play’ and needs to be handled with severe penalties.  If you don’t like fighting, that’s fine, not everyone does, and there are plenty of folks who would like to see it reduced or eliminated from the game.

Where I take issue, though, is this:

There is a large group of people who attend games just to watch people fight and get hurt.

No no NO.  This is exactly the same as saying “oh, those rednecks only go to the NASCAR races for the crashes!”, and it’s just as untrue.  Way to set yourself up on the high road.  Hockey, like football and even basketball to a lesser extent, is a contact sport.  Guys moving that fast, there’s going to be collisions and injuries.  As a long-time fan, I find a clean thundering hit just as entertaining as a breakaway goal snipe by a skill guy.  The same way I enjoy a receiver getting blasted over the middle but holding on to the ball, or a player driving the lane and delivering a powerful dunk while defenders go flying.  I do not like the staged fights, but I admit I enjoy some good fisticuffs when there’s a reason for them.

Look, I’m all for removing the stupid hits from the game, the head-hunting, heck, toss in the slewfooting while you’re at it.  It’s a great thing to advocate for.  I watch the game with my kids sometimes, though in general my son has ignored the fights when they happen (even if I stand up to get a look at who’s dropped the gloves).  But your words lose some of their effectiveness with me when you want to me and every other hockey fan I know into a ‘large group’ that loves seeing people get hurt.  Just not true.

So Who IS Tougher, the Average Hockey Player or Football Player?

The Twitter discussion yesterday between Thurman Thomas and Matthew Barnaby (with Mike Commodore’s 2 cents) got me thinking on this:  who really IS tougher, an average hockey player or football player?  Let’s think.

  1. Activity Level:  Both have ’60 minute’ games.  Football players take half of the game off, though, with the offense sitting down while the defense is on the field and vice versa.  However, there are more hockey players playing in each game, so the actual time on the field favors football.  Football loses this for me, though, in that even when you ARE on the field, there’s 10-15 seconds of activity, and then 30 seconds of huddle.  Slight Advantage to hockey.
  2. Violence:  I think Thurman was underestimating this.  His crack about hockey players losing teeth versus football players getting concussions is silly.  Ask Eric Lindros, or even Chris Drury and RJ Umberger about concussions in hockey.  Have to give a slight edge to football here though, as there are potentially dangerous hits most every play, with big linemen landing on you, rolling your ankles, getting knees buckled, horse-collar tackles, and so forth.  And I’m not putting hockey over the top by throwing fighting in the mix, as it’s fairly rare nowadays, and for the most part only done by a select group regularly (keeping kickers and punters out of this for the same reason).  Slight advantage to football.
  3. Longevity:  This one’s a wash, to my mind.  I’ve seen the 5 year average career number for NHL players (including Commodore mentioning it), while anywhere from 3.5 years to 4.6 years for NFL players.  I believe the NHL number is slightly higher because a borderline player can bounce between the NHL and AHL (or Europe) a few times.  Someone like Cody McCormick, who has been going back and forth between various AHL teams and the NHL doesn’t happen much in the NFL.  Also, to refute something Thurman said, tears (of ligaments etc.) are the most common injury in the NFL, while concussions are possible in both.  Even.

So what’s my verdict?  Guys, you are BOTH super-tough.  I got the feeling this was all in good-natured fun, but I think this would be a great opportunity for ESPN or Versus to have a ‘Shaq VS.’ type show with these guys.  Picture it:  Barnaby and other recent NHL retirees have to play running back and absorb hits from former NFL linebackers (Junior Seau and Tedy Bruschi aren’t busy, are they?), and Thurman and some friends have to act as defensemen while Al MacInnis, Jeremy Roenick or other former NHLers fire shots on net.  Show ’em just the sort of toughness hockey requires, since it’s not all about hitting somebody or fighting.

Homefield Advantages

A joking comment at work about the Vikings getting to wear actual horned helmets on the field has led to this post – if your team could have a true homefield advantage, what would it be?  Here’s what I came up with:

  • Minnesota Vikings – Wearing actual horned helmets.
  • Detroit Lions – In the red zone, there is a trap door where an actual lion comes out, Gladiator-style.
  • New York Jets – Jet.  Powered.  Skateboards.
  • New England Patriots – If a receiver gets behind the D, Bill Belichick is authorized to shoot them with a musket (non-lethal beanbag if you must).
  • Chicago Bears – Three times per game, an actual bear can be brought in at running back.  Must be taught to carry the ball with his front paws, and not eat Ed Hochuli.
  • Dallas Cowboys – Tony Romo can lasso one potential tackler after handing the ball off.
  • St. Louis Rams – Blockers are allowed to ram their helmets into the groin of linebackers.
  • New Orleans Saints – Can ask forgiveness for 3 penalties per game (probably have to limit it to procedural stuff, and not personal fouls).
  • Buffalo Bills – Can replace a safety with an actual Bison.  If Ocho Cinco thought Donte Whitner could hit…

Anyone else have a good one?