Horace Greeley once said, “Go west, young man.” Why? Because that’s where all the good stuff is.
(Of course, he didn’t mention higher taxes if you happen to end up in California.)
Indeed, at the moment there is a stunning continental divide in the NHL and the NBA – most of the good teams are in the West, most of the not-so-good teams are in the East. I’ll deal with this in detail shortly, but first let’s talk about this East-West fissure.
Couch Slouch is uniquely qualified to do this.
I have lived 61 percent of my life on the East Coast and 39 percent of it on the West Coast; I have not lived a nanosecond in the Midwest – the people there are a little too nice for my tastes and I don’t like prime time starting at 7 p.m.
(More specifically, I have resided my entire life in two dysfunctional cities: Washington, D.C., where everyone is more important than you are, and Los Angeles, where everyone acts as if they’re more important than you are.)
Quite simply, almost everything out West is better than everything back East. This is inarguable, indisputable and incontrovertible.
Here’s a smattering of West-beats-East categories:
Oceans. The Pacific is the No. 1-ranked ocean in the world. The Atlantic? As Burt Lancaster mused in Louis Malle’s sublime 1980 film, “Atlantic City,” “The Atlantic Ocean was something then … you should’ve seen the Atlantic Ocean in those days.”
Those days are long gone.
Mountain ranges. The Rockies make the Appalachians look like a grassy knoll.
Music. Remember the West Coast-East Coast rap war? I’m hip to the hop – 2Pac’s “All Eyez on Me” was the bomb.
Casinos. Gambling-wise and every otherwise, Las Vegas vs. Atlantic City is like Mecca vs. a landfill.
Weather. Uh, I’ll take San Diego and give you Buffalo and 27½ degrees.
(The one East-West exception: The mighty Mississippi slays the Colorado River. And New York’s Hudson River crushes the Los Angeles River. Heck, rainwater dripping down a windowpane crushes the L.A. River.)
Okay, let’s turn our East-West attention to sports.
I’ll deal first with the NHL – just briefly, because my relationship with the league is rather estranged – and its geographical imbalance.
Only six of the NHL’s 16 Eastern Conference teams have won more than half of their games this season; only four of the 14 Western teams have won less than half of their games. At one point last month, the No. 8 seed in the West had a better record than the No. 1 seed in the East.
In fact, you could drop the Eastern Conference’s entire Metropolitan Division into Madagascar and it would easily produce the worst hockey ever played on the island.
The NBA’s East-West gulf is even worse.
The Eastern Conference has two outstanding teams, Miami and Indiana; everyone else is essentially an AAU travel team. The West has two lousy teams, Sacramento and Utah; everyone else would make the East playoffs even if coached by Whoopi Goldberg.
Franchises like the Wizards and Bobcats are built, designed and engineered to miss the playoffs. But in the East, you can roll out of bed 5-15 on a mid-December morning and know the postseason is just beyond the reach of your nightstand. Or, as the Bucks’ Caron Butler told the Washington Post the other day, “It’s the Eastern Conference. You win four in a row, you’re the seventh seed or something.”
The Knicks just ended a nine-game losing streak last week – and they’re three games out of a playoff spot. The Bucks recently ended an 11-game losing streak – and they’re just five games away from a No. 8 seed.
Anyway, I’ve figured a way out of this. Rather than dividing the leagues geographically east and west, let’s divide them north and south. Yeah, north and south. What’s the worst-case scenario here, a civil war? Oh, right.
Ask The Slouch
Q. The Mariners are paying Robinson Cano $240 million over 10 years. Wouldn’t that money be better spent on new bats, gloves and rosin bags? (Wilson Miles; Spokane)
A. I shudder to think how much they would’ve given Cano if he ran hard to first base.
Q. In this day and age, which has more meaning at the start – the white wedding dress or the NFL kickoff? (Bill Coe; Washington, D.C.)
A. Actually, all of my brides wore black.
Q. Does the NSA even bother to read your column, let alone your e-mail? (Mark Cohen; Gibsonia, Pa.)
A. You, my friend, are now ensconced in the NSA data bank.
Q. Have you ever noticed that Cowboys coach Jason Garrett doesn’t appear to be aware that the NFL keeps score? (Scott D. Shuster; Watertown, Mass.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
Q. Does Rosetta Stone have a program that could possibly help us interpret Mike Mayock? (Gary Crucetti; Hoosick Falls, N.Y.)
A. Shirley, this man goes to the front of the pay line.