Bagels and Jocks: A Weekly Examination of the Jewish Sports World- Monday, January 7, 2013
The NFL playoffs had their first, almost-exciting weekend of action, and now there are just eight teams with a chance to win the Lombardi Trophy. But the big story in Bagels and Jocks is…the imminent return of hockey. Remember that sport?
PLAYING HOCKEY, NOT HOOKY
And on the 114th day, there was hockey. Well, kind of.
Pretty soon, hockey fans will be hearing much more about TOI (time of ice) and PPG (power-play goals) than about the NHLPA (National Hockey League Players’ Association) and the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement). After a 113-day owner-instigated lockout, representatives of the owners and the NHLPA reached a tentative agreement yesterday to preserve some sort of NHL season.
Said NHL Commissioner GARY BETTMAN, who has seen three different work stoppages (not counting the thousands for penalties and period breaks) under his 20-year regime, “We have reached an agreement on the framework of a new collective bargaining agreement, the details of which need to be put to paper,” Bettman said. ”We’ve got to dot a lot of Is, cross a lot of Ts. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but the basic framework of the deal has been agreed upon.”
Apparently, a 700-or-so page agreement still has to be formally drawn up and ratified by 30 owners and 700-plus players, but when the ice melts…or freezes again…the usual 82-game schedule will be shortened to either 48 or 50. Those are the most plausible scenarios, as the situation is still fluid…or, is that the wrong term for ice hockey? Okay, enough of the cold war semantics, but seriously: The NHL has already lost a bunch of revenue from the lockout. Some financial perspective on this was shed in yesterday’s column on yahoosports (bylines to Ira Podell and Ronald Blum):
The NHL’s revenue of $3.3 billion last season lagged well behind the NFL ($9 billion), Major League Baseball ($7.5 billion) and the NBA ($5 billion), and the deal will lower the hockey players’ percentage from 57 to 50 – owners originally had proposed 46 percent.
There is a reason why—at least in most parts of the U.S.—hockey is considered to be the fourth major sport. Still, it is much bigger in Canada, and in certain parts of the States than it may be in, say, New York or Philadelphia…and one shouldn’t underestimate how rabid some of those Rangers, Islanders (and okay, Devils) and Flyers fans are.
Many of these work stoppages are often characterized as millionaires (the players) haggling with billionaires, and while an oversimplification, there is a lot of truth to it. But one also needs to consider all of the regular guys and gals who depend upon the NHL for a large portion of their own family revenue—arena workers, bar owners and workers, team employees who aren’t household names, parking lot attendants and the like.
I now feel good for all of them, and must admit that the hockey fan in me will celebrate the return of the sport and…being a Philly guy…my Philadelphia Flyers’ quest to win their first Stanley Cup since they won back-to-back titles in 1974-75. As a Jewish sportswriter, I’ll be anxious to follow the exploits of players such as the Calgary Flames’ nifty goal-scorer MICHAEL CAMALLERI and the Toronto Maple Leafs’ gritty Mike Brown. There are other players, too, not just the commish and team owners such as the Flyers’ longtime head honcho Ed Snider, who said (courtesy of the Yahoo piece cited):
”I’m thrilled for our fans, I’m thrilled for all of our people that work around our sport that have been hurt by this…I’m thrilled for the players, for the owners. I’m just sorry it had to take this long. The great thing is, we don’t have to look at it for hopefully 10 years, or at worst eight, and that’s good stuff.”
All true, but I wonder how much the owners (especially, as they instigated this lockout) and players care about the “little guy” who has been affected by this work stoppage. Yes, it will make for a crazy, compressed schedule, so each game will be more important and exciting. But what of those fans who live and die with hockey and all of those who lost crucial income because of the apparent obstinance (abstinence?) and greed? Does that register with them, and did it really take 113 days to get this done? Pardon my skepticism.
As sports fans we tend to roll with these punches, as, well, where else can we see sports played at the (presumed) highest levels. Last year’s NBA season was curtailed, as was the preseason for the 2011-12 NFL schedule. And what about those NFL replacement ref games. ‘Nuff said.
With all that said and implied, it will be great to see the guys…as early as next week…start to drop the puck and even drop the gloves. They already dropped the Winter Classic, and came within a day or two of dropping the whole season.
THE NFL PLAYOFFS
The wild card weekend of the NFL postseason is now history, even if none of the four games were particularly riveting. On Saturday, the Houston Texans got past the visiting Bengals 19-13. (TAYLOR MAYS, Bengals’ safety, did not figure in the box score in a reasonably close game featuring so-so offensive performances.) In the nightcap, the host Green Bay Packers turned back the Minnesota Vikings (and backup right guard Geoff Schwartz) 24-10 in a game that held almost none of the previous week’s drama and excitement between the two division rivals.
On Sunday, the Baltimore Ravens ended the Cinderella season of the visiting Indianapolis Colts by a score of 24-9. At the nation’s capital, the Seattle Seahawks spotted a visibly inured Robert Griffin III two quick touchdowns before storming back to win 24-14. On a down note for all football fans (especially those who love dynamic, talented players who also happen to be intelligent and classy), RG3 attempted to play on perhaps one good knee until being knocked out of the game early in the fourth quarter. Needless to say, there is a big controversy brewing in DC over the team (and head coach Mike Shanahan)’s decision to leave the gutsy rookie in the game when he was obviously laboring in physical pain. Stay tuned on this and for next weekend’s games featuring: the Ravens’ visit to the top-seeded Broncos and the New England Patriots hosting the Texans in the AFC. In the NFC, the top-seeded Atlanta Falcons host the red-hot Seahawks and—in what figures to be the best game of the whole weekend—(I probably just jinxed it) the Packers travel to Frisco to take on the 49ers.
A note to all fans who like to put down a shekel or two on the action. Last week, I made the following predictions:
For what it’s worth, I do expect the Broncos and Patriots to mix it up for a place in Super Bowl XLVII. Whether it’s just his season to shine or he has all of the right ingredients around him, I do think Manning and his Broncos will find a way to get to New Orleans…
For what it’s worth, I can envision anyone but the Minnesota Vikings winning the NFC, and it’s even hard to rule them out when the most dynamic player in the league lines up in their backfield. When all is said and done, something tells me that Aaron Rodgers and company will find a way to beat the odds and win the NFC Championship Game in Atlanta over the Falcons…So…who will win the Super Bowl? Give me a few more weeks (and if needed, two different teams to choose from), and I’ll tell you. And even then, please take my predictions with a box of salt…and yes, even then, do avoid such sodium intact. Heck, just enjoy the games.
For what it’s worth, you may want to take the other side of these games or, do as I do: Don’t put your money where your mouth or keyboard may point you. Just enjoy.
On that sensible note, it is time to sign off from today’s edition of Bagels and Jocks. See you next Monday right here. Please feel free to share some dialogue below. If you would like to bring another Jewish athlete, mover-and-shaker (or issue) to my attention, please reply below or contact me by e-mail.
For more information about Matt’s new co-authored book, A Snowball’s Chance: Philly Fires Back Against the National Media, please visit this link.
For information about Matt’s books, sports columns, speaking events and requests for appearances and custom writing, please visit www.tipofthegoldberg.com, or contact him via email. You are invited to like his new Facebook Fan Page (“to like, to like, l’chayim”), which can be found right here.
About the Author: An author, speaker and custom writer from Cherry Hill, NJ, Matt loves to entertain people through his writing and public speaking. Laughs, Smiles and just enough Wisdom reach his audience through the magic of his written and spoken words. More about Matthew