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:
Let’s just hope that the reporter there was not Stephen A.
Posted in Breakfast, NHL
Tagged Barry Melrose, Blackhawks, Chicago, Detroit, ESPN, hockey, nba, NBC, NHL, Popeye Jones, Redwings, Seth Jones, Sportscenter, Stephen A. Smith, TheOrangeWedge
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.