Tag Archives: ESPN

Breakfast: Not Enough Ice Time For The NHL

NHL-logo

As the new hockey guy at the OrangeWedge, I’m joining the writing team at an exciting time. After an embarrassing 113 day lockout, the 2013 NHL season is about halfway finished, and the league is as popular as ever.

That is, as popular as ever among long-time hockey fans.

Many writers undoubtedly point to the past work stoppages as the leading factor for the lack of American support. While I agree with this, I believe that the NHL’s popularity cannot be discussed without mentioning ESPN, the self-proclaimed “worldwide leader in sports.”

The big story of this year has been the Chicago Blackhawks’ miraculous 22-game point streak. As a Detroit Redwings fan, it sickens me, but I have to tip my hat and say well done. After the Hawks and the Wings faced off this past Sunday, in NBC’s second most viewed hockey game in history, ESPN was forced to properly highlight the achievement. How did they bring attention to this historic streak, you ask? By allowing their controversial NBA analyst, Stephen A. Smith, to discuss it on their flagship program, SportsCenter. Smith, unimpressed by the streak, attacked long-time hockey analyst Barry Melrose, barely letting him get a word in while he attacked with nonfactual arguments.

My gripe with Stephen A. Smith’s prideful ignorance has more to do with ESPN than Smith himself. It is not surprising that a basketball guy thinks poorly of hockey. To be honest, I doubt you’ll ever find me mentioning basketball on the Wedge, unless of course I’m discussing this year’s top NHL prospect Seth Jones, the son of former NBA player Popeye Jones. But more to the point: ESPN, in their quest for higher revenue and ratings, fails to cover the NHL with the integrity and fairness it deserves. Until this changes, ice hockey will forever be the little brother of North America’s big 4 sports.

Lucky for American hockey fans, there may be hope in the future:

Hockey Tweet

Let’s just hope that the reporter there was not Stephen A.

Dinner: Please Excuse My Bias

Why New Jersey is Undoubtedly the Best Place for Professional Sports Fans!

With no major cities, poor fan attendance, and the reputation of the Jersey Shore, I can’t blame the Nets for hightailing it to Brooklyn. Of the remaining 4 teams that play their home games in New Jersey, only the Devils give credit to this great state. Regardless of those teams trying to pass themselves off as New York, evidence suggest there is no better place to be a sports fan than the Garden State.

I guess I should start with my biases. Yes, I was born and raised into a sports family in North Jersey. To make matters worse, I have lived in New Jersey 22.5 of my 23 years alive. I currently live in Seattle where I have access to one of the greatest NFL fan bases, the 12th man, but this isn’t about fan dedication. This about the rivalries, the proximity, the allegiances, the anguish, the pride, and most of all, the championships.

New Jersey has an identity crisis. For sports fans, you are quickly launched into 2 options, each with their own set of sub-options, like a “Choose Your Adventure” book for a sports fan. First, a fan decides if he will be loyal to his local teams or idiotically support an out of town club based on nonsensical logic and a lack of mental clarity. Most fans choose the former. But the great part about New Jersey is plethora of choices. If you live in the south, choices are more limited, but they still need to be made. Southern Jersey calls Philadelphia their city, so it comes to no surprise that they like the Eagles and Phillies. Where it gets tricky is hockey. Do you support the Flyers? Or show pride in the one remaining New Jersey team there is, the Devils? As for the Northern folk, each sport has its decision. Giants or Jets? Knicks or Nets? Rangers or Devils? Heck, even the Islanders are in the mix! With these options come countless combinations of fans, creating quite a mix of loyalties amongst friends. Couple that with the closeness of the Philadelphia fans and you have yourself a sports war-zone.

The war-zone is what its all about. At any time in any part of the state, there are two people who are butting heads over the outcome of a game. Friendships can be divided during football season but come back together for baseball. Sure, Seattle has great football fans, but who can I talk trash to here? Who can I demean when there are no Jets or Eagles fans? I miss being close enough to hear my neighbors scream with despair as their precious Rangers drop in the Conference Finals to the Devils. I miss taunting Jets and Mets fans with the recent Championships of the Giants and Yankees. Sure, I have been on the losing side before, but those heckling calls and degrading banter is what makes sports more than sports. My teams here are my identity. Unlike 4 sport cities like Chicago, Detroit, and Boston, we don’t rally together around our teams. We don’t all share a pint over our loathing Red Sox and discuss our hatred for the Yankees. We are a state divided, shit talking our way to our friends and neighbors all the way to the title. And we like it that way.

Not only are there many teams in the area, but they all have extreme pressure to win. This means spending major bucks, even if it does still go to Bobby Bonilla. For the first time in my life I am living in a small sports market, and it surely is eye opening. The Seahawks make it to the playoffs and fans here act like they won the Super Bowl. The Mariners have no money to make any move than re-sign their one worthy asset, Felix Hernandez. This is something I can’t get used to. Where is the winning culture? Where is the money? As a Yankees fan, I am used to throwing money at anyone and anything who can help bring a 28th ring. As a Giants fan, anything short of a Super Bowl is a failure. This sentiment is shared across New York, New Jersey, and Philadelphia, making each year either glorious or heart breaking.

It has always bothered me when people think I can’t be a real Yankees or Giants fan because I live in New Jersey. As if some redneck living in upstate New York has more of a claim those teams. As if some Manhattan douche who arrives late and leaves early in his Ralph Lauren sweater vest can say he is more of a fan because he pays the Manhattan premium on everything. Well, when these people are hitting the tunnel traffic while getting to the Giants game, or getting herded like cattle into the public transit, just think of New Jersey and my relaxed, non-state-border-crossing ride home.

Is there anywhere else that comes close to New Jersey in Sports? Sure. But it’s just that. Close. Florida has many professional sports teams that could create a similar sporting paradise. But Florida teams have some of the worst attendance, their state demographic is split evenly between AARP members and swamp people, and their teams aren’t ever relevant except for the occasional fluky Marlins World Series. Shula and Marino still run that state, which says enough. Plus, more fans rather watch the Daytona 500 than any other professional sporting event.  Tim Tebow, save your state!

What about California? With their major cities and abundance of sports teams they have major rivalries and some relevant teams. Well, good argument. However, wearing an opposing cities jersey in any Californian stadium is essentially throwing up a gang sign on someone else’s turf. California fans go past the drunken banter and occasional fight you’ll find in New Jersey. The media has extensively covered the post-game brawls that have left some severely injured or brain dead. Additionally, the only truly relevant teams lately are in the Bay Area. San Diego and Los Angeles have the beaches, but that does little in contributing to the professional success. Want to see an in state rivalry between San Francisco and Los Angeles? Have fun driving 9 hours. In New Jersey, the turnpike runs from Philadelphia to New York in a quick two hour drive (just keep your windows rolled up).

New Jersey has it all: a multitude of winning (or for some, at least the appearance of trying to win) teams, rivalries, convenience, and the hatred from everyone else in the country. You just can’t beat that.

Disagree? Please, try and argue a better place to be a pro sports fan.

Lunch: Sports at the Oscars ’13 (Silver Linings Playbook spoiler alert)

Photo: Silver Linings Playbook Facebook

Photo: Silver Linings Playbook Facebook

Philadelphia – the city of brotherly love and home to some of Hollywood’s most recognized cinematic sports figures: Rocky, Vince Papale, Pat Solitano…wait who?

That’s right Philly, there’s a new mentally unstable sheriff in town.

A hint of sports and a whiff of hilarity can be found at this year’s Oscars through the screenplay and flawless character development of David O. Russell’s, “Silver Linings Playbook”. We’ve seen sports films wow us at the Oscars before, but this movie just feels different. “Silver Linings Playbook” may be one of the more balanced films I have seen since “The Social Network”. Nominated in such categories as Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Director, this well-rounded film displays the insanity of the diehard sports fan amidst a tumultuous NFL season. In this case, that sports fan is Pat Senior, played by Robert DeNiro (nominated for best supporting actor).

He rubs up on his lucky handkerchief, shifts things around the living room, and has Chris Tucker hold the TV remotes for good measure. I’d be lying if I said this doesn’t slightly remind me of myself during a Sunday NFC east showdown. DeNiro’s character embodies the passion found within fan bases across the country. Sure, he’s a bookie and has extreme OCD, but his love for the Philadelphia Eagles, football, and his family is something the majority of us diehards can surely relate to.

DeNiro’s son in the film, Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper – nominated for best actor), is returning home from a mental institution. While he still loves his Eagles, it’s apparent he no longer shares the commitment and/or mental capacity to enjoy a game with his father. Regardless, that doesn’t stop him from showing up to a dinner party wearing his favorite DeSean Jackson jersey – a power move at its finest. This sort of team passion seemingly follows the cast everywhere. At home, at the tailgate, even at therapy.

While I might be criticized in dubbing this a “sports film”, it offered a unique variety of athletic endorsement between the Solitano’s Eagles obsession and Tiffany’s (Jennifer Lawrence – nominated for best actress) dance competition.

After roping Bradley Cooper’s character into participating in the contest, we as the audience find ourselves jumping back and forth between the crammed, bustling environment of the Solitano football-infused living room and the quiet, open space of Tiffany’s dance studio. It becomes refreshing to see Pat remove himself from the potentially toxic atmosphere he finds at home. The appreciation behind Pat and Tiffany’s work is finally realized as you applaud their crazed performance at the dance competition.

A juggling act of two completely opposite ends of the athletic spectrum;  “Silver Linings Playbook” has my vote in every category it is nominated for. Check out to see how the film holds up against its competition tonight on ABC at 7pm EST/4pm PAC.

Dinner: GRAPEFRUIT LEAGUE – Y U N0 ADVERTISE?!

Since about mid-December 2012, the “Scorecenter” app on my Smartphone has gone out of its way to let me know that on Saturday, February 23rd the New York Yankees will be playing a spring training game against the Atlanta Braves. This is some fine and dandy stuff. By simply highlighting the fact that I’m a fan of several teams through the app itself, it then proceeds to keep track of their current and upcoming schedules. Technology, you beautiful, majestic, 4G songbird.

Time passes. Seasons begin and end. Before I know it, it’s February 22nd and I’m seeing promos for the upcoming NASCAR series at Daytona, which we could all do without. Confusion and those heavy sweats begin to settle in nice and deep-like. Seemingly every year, the start of Major League Baseball’s “Grapefruit League” sneaks up and bites me right in the feels. Why is this the case? I get my daily servings of ESPN and its varied choices of programming. I watch a balanced diet of sporting events across all major networks. How does something as fun as this league go unnoticed under the watchful eye of an avid sports fan like myself? Come October, the MLB has no problem running those horrendous playoff promotions with “Written in the Stars” blasting on repeat. You’re better than this, Major League Baseball. At least hook the fans up with some Prince to get ‘em out of their seats. There’s no such thing as too much “Raspberry Beret”.

The Grapefruit League is a fun, family-friendly season that needs more exposure. Not only does it offer that beaming Florida weather that folks up here in the Northeast couldn’t be more jealous of, but it acts as a technical first-look at moves made during the offseason. Josh Hamilton is now an Angel, Jose Reyes a Blue Jay, and Nick Swisher an Indian (not to be taken literally). People want to see this sort of action and the MLB needs to do a better job at promoting this goldmine that they’ve been sitting on. Weeks prior to the start of even preseason training, give the Grapefruit League half of the airtime ESPN dedicates to the “This is Sportscenter: Swedish Chef” commercial and attendance will spike.

Broadcast advertising aside, there are other ways to reach this audience aside from a 10-15 second spot on the YES Network. Get creative MLB! People simply need to know of this great opportunity to vacate the desolate, freezing other parts of the US while being able to enjoy such a classic American pastime.

I’M YOUR DEMOGRAPHIC. I WANT TO FEEL MY PALE SKIN BURNING IN THOSE BLEACHERS UNDER THE FLORIDA SUN. I WANT TO SEE MARIANO RIVERA TAKE THE MOUND AGAIN. ICE-COLD LEMONADE WOULDN’T HURT.

How could the MLB market the Grapefruit League more effectively? What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below or tell us what you think via Twitter at @TheOrangeWedge.