Blackhawks Confidential

Olympic hockey celebrates imprisonment in backwater streets of MSNBC

I see where hockey is being deemed relevant again by NBC, since an announced 8.22 million viewers clawed their way through the cable bushes and brambles, hiked their way upward on their direction-finder remotes, swam downstream through the swamp of programming aimed at women, men, kids, sexual deviants, guilt-ridden Christians, zoned-out addicts and forlorn couch potatoes of all shapes, sizes and obsessions and finally landed smack on MSNBC.

Or as Sarah Palin calls it, hell on earth.

The NBC peacock is out in full force, trumpeting the fact Team USA's victory against Team Canada elicited such a throaty response from a population considered to be largely anemic when it comes to cozying up to hockey. But if NBC thought hockey was first-rate and would attract a patriotic crowd eager to see those dastardly Canadians shot down and inflict an extra dose of depression on a people perpetually divided by two languages and linked only via their frosty umbilical cord that attaches them to the North Pole and a genealogy that extends all the way to Santa's work shop elves, why wasn't that good 'ol hockey game, the best game I can name, on the real NBC?

Simple. (See, I can write a short sentence).

TV executives, be they national, regional or on your neighborhood watch list of convicted pedophiles, hate hockey. And I don't see that ever changing, keeping hockey both enslaved and confined to the dungeon of TVWasteLand and let out for an occasional free day whenever the bosses feel generous enough to allow the sport an inkling of exposure. In the case of MSNBC, they figure they can live with one night of hockey replacing their crown jewel of entertainment and ratings: Lockup.

Or for you butthead prison fanatics, Lockup Raw, if you prefer. You can't see it, but I'm giving you the MSNBC gang sign right now, brothers and sisters. Death and destruction and skull-and-crossbone shirts for all.

Like hockey, Lockup has its own language foreign to outsiders. So don't go asking a redeye (hard stare) if he is slinging rock (selling crack cocaine) or can spare a soda (coke zero) or you could end up with a shank (a knife) like some punk (inmates subject to rape, usually white) from a prison wolf (a guy who likes females outside the joint, but males inside).

See, in hockey, being a two-way player is what everyone is looking for. Not quite the same around the prison yard. So you got to know your way around to stay out of trouble, both on MSNBC and other snakepits, or you will find yourself tits up (dead). This prison slang is addictive, ain't it?

There is no way for hockey to compete forever with such educational programming. Unless commissioner Gary Bettman appoints Sean Avery as NHL spokesman and we can have a hockey reality show on MSNBC where everyone gets involved and compares their history of sloppy seconds, terrible thirds, flavorful fourths, fantastic fifths and salacious sixths.

Even then, NBC would keep hockey hidden on their bastard stepchild channel, where it is visited sparingly rather than NBC visible like ice dancing. And that's a stinger to the chops worse than anything the US and Canada could muster in terms of physical outbreaks during a game that is supposedly impossible to watch because some people willing to try adopting hockey can't see that damn puck move while other people abhor the violence.

I'm tired of hearing that bullshit after so many years too. The indignities never cease whenever it comes to someone selling us hockey like it was toothpaste or shampoo.

After all, NBC didn't even stoop to offering Conan O'Brien a MSNBC talk show to resolve a scheduling conflict with Jay Leno. So are hockey fans now suppose to be thrilled that the only more watched event on MSNBC after this US-Canada tilt was John McCain conceding on a channel that draws mostly liberals and Democrats (and a few pissed-off Republicans) to an altar of Olbermann and Maddow and Matthews that, yes, Barack Obama will be president?

I mean, c'mon, Oprah announced that months previously. So MSNBC finished second again and they just won't admit it.

Proving once again that nothing draws better than a loser admitting defeat to the segment that wanted him beaten down, unless it's a Tiger calling for a mistress recount because a screw or two might have been lost in the voting machine process. So you might say as many viewers turned on Sunday night to watch that favored Canada taking a licking and spanking (solid Lockup talk) as to witness the U. S. squeeze by to win, thanks primarily to goalie Ryan Miller.

Every so often we hear hockey has finally turned the corner in America and will be viewed differently from now on. But the 1980 Olympics came and went with renewed anticipation of sustained rebirth from the NHL in general, and we found no miracles on ice. Like life and milk, this miracle came with an expiration date.

So I don't expect any possibility that Team USA could ignite a different sustaining fire this time by eventually ejecting those dirty Commies (don't be fooled by their change of uniform, once a Commie always a Commie) or even having a great revenge match in which an irate Canada tries to recapture its national identity by knocking off the country that's responsible for most of their outrageous salaries. Talk about ingrates. Let us win every several decades and quit your whining.

I have to admit hockey on MSNBC and NBC isn't much different in practice. You still hear Mike "Screech" Emrick's grating falsetto cracking like chalk on a blackboard, delivering play-by-play that falters rather than flows, stumbles rather than sings, scratches those eardrums rather than soothes them.

Emrick is mostly saved by our beloved EDZO, who obviously doesn't have enough clout to replace Emrick with his Blackhawks partner Pat Foley. I remember a few weeks ago when a passing EDZO outburst during a Hawks game--as EDZO likes to do apparently for a personal amusement at the damndest times--prompted Foley to compare EDZO's senseless screaming to what takes place during the NBC intermissions from the NHL analyst crew.

EDZO was mostly stunned into silence by Foley's direct hit at NBC, muttering for a while after that and certainly not jumping in with his patented "Pat, let's stop it here" and breaking down the Foley hit stride by stride.

Now, Foley obviously still holds a grudge against Bill Wirtz for farming him out to the Chicago Wolves and has built up that anger into a national rage, but I agree with him that he would be much preferable to Emrick in the play-by-play chair and that someone somewhere better review the NHL analyst crew on NBC. It's just not good enough. It has no meaning to hockey fans or hockey neophytes or hockey dumbbells.

Having no meaning in TV, no story to tell, is the very same as not existing.

And someone please give new blood Jeremy Roenick lessons right now in communicating by a means other than cliches, guffaws and shoulder bumps to whoever sits next to him.

TV ain't as easy as it looks and JR is proving that all over again by thinking exuberance trumps intelligence. Calm down, JR. You're not a player any more. Accept that first, and the rest will come. If you want to analyze, that's a whole different art. Because media ain't as easy as all you players think.

Although you have always known how to run your mouth at will, your utterances now have to be direct, funny, informative, insightful and consistent. That's hard work. Not just the usual babbling off whatever you think of first.

Everyone's favorite punching bag when it comes to assessing blame for why the NHL can't find a permanent, prominent and highly visible TV home is Bettman. It's surely true he took that job knowing next to nothing about hockey, and supposedly everything about management, so I figure he deserves some blame for not managing the TV package more effectively after all these years.

And after all my years of worthless experience, here's a tip for the NHL. Never put your product on any channel that means "against" or "as opposed to" or "in contrast with." A dictionary could have saved you. Because in contrast to Versus, MSNBC spells heaven.

For the NHL, the more important versus is DirecTV vs. Comcast. The neverending conflict of who gets paid the most money, which is the true American enterprise, is limiting essential game access to DirecTV viewers and could keep them from seeing the playoffs.

Hockey is limited enough already without trying to marginalize itself even more. If the NHL can't broker this peace, they are next to meaningless, as well, which will come as no surprise to anyone.

No matter where the NHL turns, even the Olympic stage where sports that aren't sports get recognized and highlighted and people with funny names starring status, the stage for hockey is almost never on Broadway, but a side street where they have to rub shoulders with hookers and drug dealers and murderers.

And that's mostly in Canada. Ha, just a little joke there. Cheer up, Maple Leafers. You beat Germany once before with our help and now you're on your own Tuesday night.

Speaking of detours, I hate to leave my latest rant (thinking of changing the blog from Blackhawks Confidential to Blackhawks Drunken Rant) without asking whether you think Team USA GM Brian Burke had Patrick Kane in mind when he talked about the guys on his club not pulling enough rope.

"We're playing with about 10 guys carrying us," Burke said. "I'm not happy with the way we've played. I'm not unhappy, because we're the first seed and thank God there are some guys pulling on the rope.

"But we need everyone pulling on the rope. We've got to ratchet it up or all this goes for naught."

As long as Kane gets away from Vancouver with his shirt on and no women clutching at his heels at the airport with a baby in tow and chased by lawyers with subpoenas, he and the Hawks will consider that enough rope not to hang any new charges of excess fun and games upon him.

And I'm telling ya right now, if we had more interesting, appealing human interest stories like Patrick Kane, NBC would be fighting CBS, ABC and Fox for the rights to spotlight the NHL week-in, week-out, not like some seminar you need to hold every few months.

MSNBC wouldn't even be in the picture if more Citizen Kanes ruled the NHL world. As long as Kane stays out of Lockup, that is.

Crank it up, homeboy, and have a good time for the rest of us mopes stuck in the USA.

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3 Comments

Dean Youngblood said:

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I wish Olczyk would retire. Between his incoherent sentences and his retarded telestrations, that are often during game play and usually scribbles of mess, to his repeated sayings of "time and space", and "doc", to his long winded babbles....

Once again, a good hockey player that fails elsewhere.

borg said:

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Don't know why Burke would be calling out Kane. Kane made numerous good plays against Canada including the solo drive up the boards and cross-pass that could've resulted in a 2-goal lead in the 3rd.

None of the Americans' skilled players have set the world on fire, something I think is a result of not playing together really at all. Most of the damage has been done by the bangers and crashers on lines 3 and 4, which makes sense considering that type of hockey doesn't depend upon cohesion.

Jerry Kayne said:

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I can only think of Rafalski, Drury, and the guy who went end-to-end (forgot his name) as stand-outs on offense. Lots of skill on the ice but no shooters so far.

I like Doc and Eddie. Nobody on NBC's staff is better as seen/heard on the other games. I also liked Gary Thorn who's stuck on ESPN. Foley's no prize either. I like him because his voice is familiar. Many times I sync up Wideman & Murray, now they're great play-by-play.

Not crazy about J.R. but I really hate Mike Milbury. He's only famous for going into the crowd and hitting fans with their own shoes. Definitely not a color analyst. Proves again NBC knows nothing about hockey, or TV for that matter. I miss Brandon Tartikoff.

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