NHL has a ‘savior’ in Slouch
Q. What’s the difference between the National Hockey League and the federal witness protection program?
A. NHL players drop out of sight without changing their names.
I watched some hockey the other night – I love moving the Nielsen needle – and by the end of a fabulous Stanley Cup playoff game, I realized the NHL on TV can only be saved by two radical measures:
1. The game needs to be televised north-south, not east-west.
2. The game needs to eliminate one intermission.
(I understand that I’ve just lost contact with all hyper-serious NHL fans, so I’ll just speak directly to the other 99 percent of the U.S. population for the remainder of this column.)
This north-south business was first suggested to Couch Slouch by Bob Reichblum, executive producer of the nascent ReelzChannel cable network. Granted, ReelzChannel covers movies, not sports, but Reichblum is one of those fellas who tapes ECHL games and watches them while working the cell phone on his StairMaster.
Hockey simply translates better if the action is coming at you. Ever wonder why, when someone scores, they show multiple replays from behind or in front of the net? BECAUSE IT’S EASIER TO SEE THE GOAL, you knuckleheads.
(By the way, let’s be honest here: To see if a goal is scored, many of us don’t look into the net, we look for a team’s celebration. My eyes can’t follow a puck, even on a 52-inch screen.)
You would never, in tennis, sit a camera at the net. The match is shown from behind the baseline; it’s a much better angle than mid-court. Heck, if they televised tennis east-west, John McEnroe would be out of our lives and Wimbledon would have Tucker Carlson-style ratings.
Frankly, almost every sport televises better north-south than east-west.
(Soccer, of course, is the exception. Whether you put a point-of-view cam on every player’s head or just stick a telescope on the moon and point it toward an MLS pitch, nobody in Peoria or Poughkeepsie is going to be watching.)
OK, let’s talk about intermissions – thank goodness I ran off the NHL crazies earlier because they would fore-check me into my own shower door at this point – and why there are too many of them.
It’s a fast-moving, short-attention-span society out there. In the clicker culture, people switch from Leno to Letterman if they don’t like a monologue joke, they jump from “Cold Case” to “The Closer” if the crime isn’t unsolvable enough.
(The moment “Seinfeld” used to end, you think I stuck around for “Suddenly Susan”? I can operate a remote with my foot; within seconds, I was over to Nick At Nite.)
You cannot give people the chance to wander away, even for a moment. Heck, my first ex-wife left me between the seventh and eight rounds of the Sugar Ray Leonard-Thomas Hearns fight in 1989.
The NHL should not continue to give viewers two 15-minute opportunities to find a more violent TV option. Let’s say you’re grazing around during the second intermission of a Penguins-Rangers game and come upon “The Godfather.” Are you going to reject Vito Corleone and return to Jaromir Jagr? I think not.
NHL games should have two 30-minute halves rather than three 20-minute periods. And don’t tell me they need that extra intermission due to technological limitations in smoothing the ice – I’m sure Toyota makes a Zamboni that can deliver twice the performance of its American counterparts.
So, in summary, we’re talking about a single intermission, a north-south camera axis and – pardon my French – but que le diable est-il Versus?
There you have it – I’ve done my part to save the NHL.
P.S. If all else fails, replace the puck with a beach ball.
Ask The Slouch
Q. Isn’t mid-May the best time for a true sports fan? You have the MLS in full swing, Arena Football teams battling for a playoff spot and the start of the WNBA season. How can it get any better? (Carlton Leslie; Owings, Md.)
A. And it’s better than ever this year because you can just close your eyes and almost see David Beckham clearing customs.
Q. I’m interested in starting up a home game. How does one go about procuring your poker services as analyst and are you free on Tuesdays? There’s no need to mention this to Lon. Thanks. (Patrick Larkin; Ashburn, Va.)
A. Get me anything approaching the Roger Clemens deal and you can shuffle up.
Q. How does Dale Earnhardt Jr. leave Dale Earnhardt Inc.? Shouldn’t he seek family counseling first? (Bob Kessler; Cleveland Heights, Ohio)
A. James I of England had similar issues in the late 16th century with his mother Mary, Queen of Scots. I believe she eventually was beheaded.
Q. Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s dad was in Oscar De La Hoya’s corner for their fight. Did your parents sit with your ex-wives’ lawyers during your divorces? (Chris Kirin; Chicago)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.