BRONX, NY – I’ve watched more of the NHL playoffs this year than I have since I was a teenager, and it’s been pretty darn entertaining. Watching these games, many of them tense one-goal and/or overtime affairs, makes me lament that more people aren’t privy to just how great professional hockey can be. After all, it’s still a distant fourth when it comes to the “big four” professional sports, with its scores and highlights almost always relegated to the end of sportscasts. It’s not perfect, but then you can find flaws in just about any sport. Here’s a far-from-comprehensive look at what’s great and what sucks about various sports.
Great: It’s the summer game! It’s played (mostly) outdoors during those months when you most want to be outdoors. It’s short-sleeved shirts and cold beers and hot dogs. It’s got a history and great stories unlike any other sport, which is why there are so many great baseball movies. Any ball hit outside the field of play becomes property of the fans and catching an historic home run just might put your kids through college.
Sucks: Too long a season, too many games, and games that are too long, are just a few of the not-so-small problems with baseball. Crippling work stoppages and an era of unbridled doping that helped wreck the record books don’t help either. It’s “America’s Pastime,” but baseball fans stay away in droves from those teams out of contention.
Great: It’s a 16-game season so every single game counts, which you can’t say for the other majors. The Super Bowl is the single greatest championship game in all of sports. Tailgating before a game on a crisp autumn day is a hell of a lot of fun. Gambling on football should be mandatory for all humans.
Sucks: The NFL has the worst commissioner in sports, and that’s saying something. When a team like Dallas wins it all, it’s as painful as passing a cinder block-sized kidney stone. The best team in the past decade is a bunch of cheating m***erf***ers. NFL pregame shows are the worst and Fantasy Football has quickly become the most insufferable “hobby” around. The safety and post-career health of players takes a backseat to the almighty dollar.
Great: The NHL playoffs are the best. Hockey fans, as a group, are easily the most knowledgeable sports fans around. Hockey players are as tough as they come and continue to play after having teeth knocked out, faces split open, and worse. The Stanley Cup is the coolest trophy in all of sports.
Sucks: Another sport whose season could be shorter. The NHL playoffs should not be happening in May and June. Teams in Dallas, Florida, Arizona, among others, are just stupid. Hockey players have the same sort of debilitating physical and mental injuries that football players have, if not worse, but no one seems to care.
Boxing. — Great: Boxing in the 1970s and 1980s was great! Sucks: Boxing now, sucks.
Great: When it comes to pure athleticism, few sports come close to basketball, which is why guys who couldn’t cut it as pro basketball players go on to become Hall-of-Fame NFL tight ends and such. Basketball is like a turbo-charged ballet with a big orange ball thrown in for good measure. It’s as American a sport as there is. Monster slam dunks and buzzer-beating final shots have created some of the most enduring sports imagery. Marv Albert and Clyde Frazier doing games is still must-see TV.
Sucks: Why watch the whole game when you can just tune in to the final two minutes? The final two minutes often lasts 20 minutes due to excessive fouling and timeouts. Steph Curry and a handful of others aside, hardly anyone can actually shoot a basketball anymore. It’s far too easy for officials to influence the outcome of games.
Auto Racing. — Great: Bitchin’ crashes. Sucks: It can get awful monotonous waiting for those bitchin’ crashes.
Tennis and Golf.
Great: These sports are actually better to play than they are to watch. Tennis because it helps keep you in shape and golf because it’s your excuse to abandon your family for hours on end.
Sucks: Do you really want to dress up like some country-club a-hole in the name of fitness or freedom? You’re really better off going for a quick run and hitting the beach.
OK, that’s all for today. Come back tomorrow for Grinding Ax Walter Hynes, who is great… except for those times when he sucks.