Sunday, February 20, 2005

Why it all fell apart...

Bill Simmons as he so aptly does most of the time, sums up the NHL problem precisely:

"This was a blue-collar sport for middle-class fans -- a quality dive bar with one good TV, a few solid beers on tap and a ballbusting bartender named Fitzy. Then they tried to retool into an upscale joint with $15 beers and bartenders in bow ties. Suddenly, the price of NHL tickets rivaled that of the NFL and the NBA. Does that make sense? Would the WWE charge $200 for a WrestleMania pay-per-view? Would Jeff Foxworthy charge $150 a seat for the 'You Might Be a Redneck 2005' comedy tour? How could the NHL misunderstand its audience so badly?

Now the owners are pushing for massive pay cuts and a salary cap. It's like dropping 10 grand in a casino and then calling for the abolition of blackjack. Still, it's the right idea. I believe NHL players should make $10 an hour, maybe $12. And we should be able to buy two tickets, park, throw down some beers and dogs and brawl in the bathroom for no more than $70 per person. Everyone would live happily ever after.

Tragically, the owners lack the resolve and leadership to undo the damage. Basically, they need to bring on a hockey apocalypse and start over. Since that will never happen, hockey is doomed"

I remember a time once when the Pittsburgh Penguins were the greatest thing in Pittsburgh sports. EVERYONE loved them, and the Pirates were one of the best teams in baseball at the same time. Then the ticket prices started going up, the backlash started, and if you watched what happened in Pittsburgh from the time I started college in 1992 (right after back-to-back Stanley Cups), until it all fell apart when I left in 1998, you could have seen this coming a mile away.

Of course, this article was written about two weeks ago, and "hockey apocalypse" is upon us now. We'll just have to wait and see if they remember their roots.

Sidenote: About a year ago, a young belle I know through a mutual friend was lamenting how NASCAR is no longer a "Southern" sport. She was commenting about how tracks like North Wilkesboro and Rockingham have been closed in NC, and replaced with races in Chicago and Las Vegas.

Will NASCAR suffer the same fate in a few years, with the closing of Darlington and other older tracks in the South? Will it forget its roots like the NHL did and suffer a collapse in another decade?

I think the marketing aspect of NASCAR (my boss says, "It's a advertisment that happens to involve cars going around in a circle") will never let detachment threaten the enterprise, but you never know. People are fickle - in 1970, would anyone have thought the NFL would supplant baseball as the National Pastime?

In time, all things will be revealed...


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