TAMPA/ST. PETE – FL – Right away, I like that the MLB playoffs seemingly have some sense of urgency. By this I mean that the current round – the “NLDS” – is a best of 5 series and MLB seems to like the idea of moving things along. Games are being played daily and the series are progressing towards the next round – the NLCS. If this was the NBA, we’d go 2 weeks between game 1 and game 2 of every series and in David Stern’s infinite arrogance, allow the post-season to drag on for 3 months. I call it arrogance because Stern seems to think that the average NBA fan has the interest/tolerance for such a prolonged post season, that they’ll just go along with whatever marketing-inspired-scheduling the soon-to-be-extinct NBA comes up with. What? That didn’t make sense? You DON’T think the NBA is about to go away?
Let’s take a closer look. Back in the late 70s/early 80s, the NBA Finals were not shown live. ANYWHERE. They were shown on what was then called “tape delay” and I recall vividly, Magic Johnson scoring 42 points in a triple-double performance that defeated the Celtics for the title in 1980. I know this because I read about it in the newspaper the next morning. I tried staying awake for the game but as the recording of the game didn’t begin until 11:30pm est I couldn’t stay awake. This was the Celtics and Lakers, for crying out loud. Bird vs Magic.
David Stern’s history books will have you believing otherwise, but the NBA was in the Dark Ages as recently as the mid-80s and was and is…a minor league sport. When the Commissioner manipulates officiating, ensures his superstars receive preferential treatment and affords them a different set of rules… it’s a minor league sport. When said Commissioner tells his signature player to take a year or two off, so that the gambling addiction he has can be sorted out… it’s a minor league sport. When the same signature player sees his father slaughtered on the side of a rural dirt road in the middle of nowhere, at a time when rumors are circulating about enormous gambling debts incurred by that star, yet no one questions a thing when his father’s body is mysteriously cremated, that’s a criminal investigation that never got off the ground… but sure as hell should have. And when the Commissioner vetoes a better trade for players for his league-owned team (Gasol and the crack-addled Lamar Odom for Chris Paul and Scott Disick)… that’s a minor league sport. In fact, if the league owns one of your teams because you haven’t found an owner solvent enough to take ownership??? Yep… it’s minor leagues. So yes, the NBA is a minor league sport managed with conflicts of interest and different rules for different players, over-lorded by an arrogant little man who ironically stands about 5’4″ and yells at everybody.
Which brings us to to the NHL. I know there are pockets, regional areas where passion for the local NHL team is rampant and devoted. Short Matt, for example has been a big Devils fan since retired NFL coach (and eponymous video game icon) John Madden strapped up the red and black and won a cup or two with them. Who among us didn’t have a poster of Pat LaFontaine on his bedroom ceiling as a kid-wait… what? Er – uh, never mind.
In spite of the passion and pure adrenaline that gets ratcheted up every fall in Detroit, Buffalo, Minnesota, Boston, etc., the NHL remain a regional curiosity and in virtually every way… a minor league, as well. Look at the TV contracts with the various broadcast and cable outlets. Quick – what channel is Versus (or whatever the hell they’re calling it this week)? The number of households tuned to an NHL game in the USA is a rounding error for the NFL. Madison Square Garden holds 19,571. That’s the number of Hockey fans in New York. I took my nephews to an Elmo show at the Garden and it was sold out! For 3 consecutive dates! You can’t be outdrawn by a Pedophile with a puppet and consider yourself big time.
What does that leave us? Well, the aforementioned MLB, and of course the top of the food chain, the National Football League – which is big time and big league in every way imaginable. Except for the Giants.
All this brings me to the ultimate symbol of minor league play. 10 year veteran, 2 time Super Bowl Winning and 2 time S.B. MVP winning Giants QB, Eli Manning. Not sure when Eli stepped into the Delorean, or where he found plutonium in 2013, but he has regressed all the way back to 2004. The Deer in Headlights, the insecure, happy-footed, “skittish” QB with no brain or heart of guts… is back. Retarded Eli has returned. Like George Costanza once said…”I feel like my old self again. Neurotic, paranoid, totally inadequate, completely insecure. It’s a pleasure.”
A man full of neurotic paranoia and a fiery temper, Angry Ward, tomorrow.