Before I jump into the world of "sports freaking," as it were, I want to sort of set the stage for what you'll be getting out of my particular posts.
I am a huge sports fan...as big a sports fan as any of the other five contributors on this blog. We all have slightly varying interests, some different favorite teams (though we're all from the New York Metro area, so figure it out), and different feelings about what goes on in the modern world of sports. However, I consider myself particularly passionate about a couple of sports that fall to the periphery of the spectrum for most American sports fans: hockey and soccer. Later on, I'll rant about the latter...but with the Rangers biggest game of the season looming tonight, I'll stick to the ice.
Now, I was brought up on hockey. I played, coached and refereed the game. The first championship I experienced was the New York Rangers winning the Stanley Cup in 1994. I have been a season ticket holder at Madison Square Garden since the early 2000's when, pardon my French, the team was a collection of absolute shit and was missing the playoffs for seven straight seasons. I sing the Goal Song that we Ranger fans adore and our rival fans despise as loud as humanly possible when a Blueshirt puts the puck in the net. From the months of October to June (hopefully), the Rangers and the NHL are my life.
And even though I am well aware - well aware - that hockey simply doesn't "do it" for a lot of people in this country, particularly in regions which don't experience much cold weather, I still get irked when ESPN decides that the NFL Scouting Combine is a more important story than the NHL playoff race. Hmmm, actual sporting events with outcomes and ramifications vs. MEANINGLESS EVALUATIONS OF COLLEGE PLAYERS RUNNING NON-FOOTBALL DRILLS? What seems more important on the surface? ESPN sets the sports agenda, and quite frankly, they generally do an awful job of it. And by the way, I know why they don't show hockey highlights, but this being a more philosophical discussion, that's simply not the point.
Perhaps what is more frustrating is this. Being in Manhattan everyday, I am afforded the privilege of seeing the back pages of New York City's finest rags, the Daily News and the Post. While both of these are poor excuses for newspapers, they are renown for their sports sections. Some of the best sportswriters in the country contribute to these newspapers. This winter was certainly eventful, but when the dust settled after such happenings as the A-Rod opt-out, the Giants Super Bowl win and the Roger Clemens steroid freak show, you would think the Rangers would receive top-billing in NYC right?
I mean, the Knicks were awful (the Rangers had better local TV ratings than them), and honestly what happens in February in baseball? Phil Hughes threw 40 pitches off the mound (maybe he should have thrown a few more...) before spring training began? How about the Rangers torrid run post All-Star break to seal their 3rd straight post-season berth? Or them blowing a 5-0 lead in Montreal on Feb. 19 but then posting a 7-0-1 record immediately thereafter? Chris Drury and Scott Gomez, the Rangers big splash summer free-agent signings, emerging as the leaders they were expected to be? Henrik Lundqvist receiving a contract extension, playing through distraction while his father in Sweden recovered from a brain aneurysm, and securing his third straight Vezina Trophy (award given to the league's outstanding goaltender) nomination? In a world where the Knicks were sadly disappearing from the consciousness of New York sports fans, the Rangers provided plenty of top-story fodder. At least that's how I see it.
But I am somewhat resigned to the fact that ESPN and the back pages will rarely lead with hockey. Maybe it's better that way. I do know that if the Rangers win the Stanley Cup, they will be the toast of the town here in New York...and damn rightfully so.