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Tag:Team USA
Posted on: March 1, 2010 11:00 am
Edited on: March 1, 2010 11:29 am
 

Winter Olympics End, Hockey Fades Away

Well, now that the Winter Olympics are over, sports fans can go back to their regular scheduled programs. Older fans won't be watching Shaun White throwing huge tricks in the snowboard halfpipe. Younger fans won't be watching figure skating for three hours a day. And most fans won't care about the NHL or hockey anymore now that the Olympics are over.

And that's not because Team USA lost to Team Canada in both gold medal games, which by the way, were both great games. That's because the NHL is harder to find on Versus than it was to find Olympic hockey on MSNBC. That's because Gary Bettman, the worst commissioner in sports and hasn't committed NHL players for the 2014 games in Russia. That's because hockey isn't a mainstream sport in the USA.

Why is that? Well, it could be that the minority of players happen to be American born. Most NHLers are Canadian or other international players from Europe. It could be the lack of a national TV deal. Heck, even MLS (Soccer) and NASCAR are on ESPN once a week. Earlier this decade the NHL didn't play for an entire year and alienated the general fan in the USA. To be fair, MLS is having their own labor problems, but that's not the point.

I like hockey. Over the past couple of years, I've probably watched more hockey than I have in the previous twenty years of my life. I want to keep watching it and get excited for regular season games that don't involve rivalries. I want to get excited for hockey that doesn't involve the words Winter Olympics and Stanley Cup Playoffs. I want to watch Chris Drury and the Rangers and live and die with every goal for and against them.

Now there was a lot of good that came out of Team USA making it to the gold medal game against Canada. Ratings for the gold medal game were over 17 on the ratings scale, which is probably one of the highest rated hockey games in the country. Makes you wonder why all the hockey games weren't on NBC to begin with, but I digress. Team USA was devastated when they lost. They cared about winning. Canada probably would have been worse if they had lost. The average fan learned that Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin (from Russia) is a world-class jerk since he didn't speak to any reporters other than Russia's and shoved away a fan's camera. And the average fan can now hate the Pittsburgh Penguins and refer to that kid as Sidney F. Crosby for the rest of his career.

I want to get over the one sports scar of my life, the Hartford Whalers being bought out by scumbag owner Peter F. Karmanos and moving to the hockey hotbed of Raleigh, NC. That won't happen until the Whalers return to Hartford, but until then, I'd like to actually watch Rangers or Isles games and actually care about what happens. Because right now, I don't. I care more about Sprint Cup results and MLS/EPL scores because the NHL just doesn't appeal to me right now.

But that’s my problem. I have a personal grudge against hockey. Most fans don’t hate hockey, they just don’t care to watch it that often. The NHL is currently behind the NFL, MLB, NBA, NCAAF/B and probably NASCAR in ratings. That’s a problem for hockey, because clearly fans watched the Olympics and loved it. It proves that the NHL isn’t doing something right to appeal to national fans.

People will say the same thing about MLS and the World Cup and that somehow wearing your nation’s colors appeals to more people and fans. I wouldn’t deny this, but if front office people and league officials think that it will translate into ratings or revenue, they’re insane. Does this mean I hate Ryan Miller, Team USA and Buffalo Sabres goalie? Absolutely not, but I’m not going to buy his jersey or order NHL Center Ice.

I will continue to watch the NHL and hockey because I like the sport. But the sport is never going to convert average fans in the USA if it doesn’t get its act together. Does that mean more NHL teams in Canada? Maybe. Does that mean contracting teams? Possibly. Does that mean lowering ticket prices? Absolutely.

America wants to care about hockey Mr. Bettman, they really do. Figure out how to turn that into a positive for your league.

And if you want my hard-earned money, that positive had better include the Hartford Whalers.

Posted on: February 25, 2010 6:08 pm
Edited on: February 25, 2010 6:18 pm
 

Two Sports, Two Late USA Wins

Judging by the ratings of the USA-Canada from Sunday, most people probably watched the USA pull out a late win over Switzerland. Fans watched Swiss goalie Jonas Hiller stifle the Americans for the first two periods before USA's Zach Parise finally connected with the twine early in the 3rd period on a power play. Parise also added a late empty net goal to seal the win for Team USA, who advanced to the medal round, semi-finals and will play Finland.

(But it was nice to see Olympic Hockey on NBC.)

Most people probably did not tune to ESPN Classic to watch the US Men's National Soccer team play El Salvador in a rainy Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay. US coach Bob Bradley is looking to finalize his World Cup roster and many of the regular starters weren't in action last night. A solid "B"-team wore down El Salvador, despite giving up the first goal of the match when Rudy Corrales in the 59th minute after he collected a defensive error and slotted past US keeper Nick Rimando. The US squad featured almost all MLS players and was devoid of its top stars like Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard. The US is currently thin at forward, with Charlie Davies' injury opening up not only a roster spot, but also a likely starting spot as well.

Both games featured very similar games for teams with "USA" on their chests. Both teams dominated possession and scoring chances but were unable to find a goal until late in the game. Parise finally snuck one past Swiss goalie Hiller, who was spectacular all tournament and Brian Ching headed one to equalize on the soccer pitch. Sasha Kljestan scored the go-ahead goal in the 90th minute after stealing the ball deep in El Salvador's defensive end and playing a nice 1-2 pass with Ching.

Both games also featured stalwart goalies that were making saves standing on their heads for most of the match. Jonas Hiller stopped 42 of 43 shots for the Swiss while El Salvador's Miguel Montes made several diving stops against the USA in the first half and had a few go off the woodwork. Each keeper had a relative brain fart as well, with Hiller's own goal that didn't count at the buzzer and Montes looking like a deer in headlights made of flubber on Kljestan's late winner. For most of both games, the story was the opposing keepers shutting out arguably a stronger side for a majority of the game.

The US Soccer schedule gets significantly tougher, as they head to the Netherlands to face the Dutch and then play the Czechs and Turkey at home in May before leaving for South Africa and the World Cup. Team USA plays Finland tomorrow, giving the women's team a chance to play their gold medal match against the homestanding Canadians, and a win would likely put them in the gold medal match, also against Canada.

Overall, both US teams but up great preformances and got wins. Even if the soccer team didn't come back, they dominated possession and the scoring chances and gave up a goal against the run of play off a defensive error. Sometimes the preformances are more important than the results. Let's say Team USA gets a medal in Vancouver, no matter what kind, that will be a great achievement for the team. And if US gets crushed by the Dutch in their next game, it's a great test for the Americans and it could make or break someone's spot on the World Cup roster.

But let's face it. Winning is pretty nice too.
Posted on: February 24, 2010 11:46 am
Edited on: February 24, 2010 11:48 am
 

Mid-Week Mini-Rants - All Olympic Edition

Last week in the rants, I asked NBC (nicely) to fix their prime time schedule to include more hockey and less live figure skating. My pleas were answered by putting the USA-Canada hockey game on MSNBC. That is a terrible job by NBC for several reasons. First, they have the national contract for the NHL and do a lousy job of that as it is. Next, MSNBC doesn't have HD in most areas, meaning one of the greatest HD sports to watch, was in standard definition. Lastly, MSNBC got high ratings (third highest rating in channel's history) and could have gotten a much higher rating in primetime on a major network. Hopefully the gold medal match for the men's and women's tournaments will be on NBC and in HD. 

Here in Trumbull, CT, our great sports history is tied to our high school, and a Little League World Series title in 1989. The winning pitcher of that LLWS for Trumbull: Chris Drury, New York Rangers captain and forward. Before the Olympics, many people criticized Team USA for picking Drury on the team. Now, after scoring two goals, one each against Canada and Norway, I just have one question for all of Drury's naysayers: WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT MY BOY NOW?!?! Jeremy Roenick was one of those naysayers and he ate his crow Monday on WFAN 660 NY. Here's the audio link. When you mess with The Bull, you get the horns.

My Monday entry on USA-Canada was featured on the CBSSPorts.com homepage. And for almost 24 hours, not one person commented on the entry. No Go USA, Down with Canada, nothing. Finally, in the 11th hour (literally, 11:14 am), Valleyfella saved me from a commeny shutout with a fantasic post defending his Canadian hockey team. Also, CBS columnists are following my entries with similar ones of their own. Freeman followed my Pro Bowl entry with a similar column, Dodd with USA Hockey in Vancouver and Parrish with the UConn-WVU game. I gotta go back to what I'm good at: bashing conferences that I don't like (SEC Football & ACC Basketball) so I don't make them look bad by posting my blog before their columns are posted on the site.

(Okay, I think Dodd beat me, but I beat Parrish by an hour and Freeman by a day.)

Here are my favorite highlights of the Olympics so far...

USA winning its first two Nordic medals. Canada throwing up the white flag to the USA's medal count. Bode Miller. Shaun White. Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso. Apolo Ohno and Shani Davis. Hockey. Curling.

And the lowlights...

NBC's primetime coverage, USA in curling (most underrated Winter Olympic sport and well, we sucked this year). Short-track speedskating zebras (officials) and rules (it should be perfectly legal to put someone into the wall in short-track). USA in Ski-cross.
Posted on: February 22, 2010 8:25 am
Edited on: February 22, 2010 10:05 am
 

V-V Day - Victory in Vancouver

That is name I'm coining for this Olympic tournament if the USA wins gold. V-V Day. But it's not over yet.

(And yes, I'm borrowing that name from Dennis Dodd. It's good. It reminds me of WWII's V-E Day for Victory in Europe. And let's face it, USA-Canada hockey is war.)

Even if the USA clinched the No. 1 overall seed in the quarterfinals thanks to a 3-0 win by Sweden over Finland, it's not over. No one is eliminated yet. The USA, Sweden, Russia and Finland all get a "bye" into the quarter-finals. Everyone else is seeded so that the 5th place team plays 12th, 6th plays 11th and so on. There will be no-reseeding for the quarterfinals as far as I know, meaning that the USA will play the winner of the "8-9" game, which is Switzerland-Belarus.

I'm going to come out and say it, Team Canada had all the pressure on it last night. They're the gold medal favorites. They're playing at home. They have the NHL's best keeper (Marty Brodeur) and one of it's best players (Sidney Crosby) who were down-right awful yesterday. Brodeur over-played the puck multiple times that led to scoring chances and goals. Crosby was non-existent for most of the game, even tipping in USA's first goal by Brian Rafalski. Yes, Crosby scored a late power-play goal to get the game to 4-3 USA, but he took a late penalty as well.

(To be fair, Crosby was held on the play. Zebras probably missed it.)

Speaking of Rafalski, how about his tournament so far? Four goals (as many as he's had this NHL season) in these Olympics, including the final two against Norway, the first against Canada 41 seconds in and another go-ahead goal 22 seconds after Canada tied it in the first period. Chris Drury (my boy from, Trumbull, CT) is not washed up. I don't care if he is the 13th forward on the roster, he's got two goals so far and he and Ryan Callahan of the Rangers have been killing penalties for the USA all tournament, and doing a fantastic job too. Local Vancouver Canuck now USA forward Ryan Kesler said before the game that he hates Team Canada. Then he went out and sealed the win out-hustling the Canadian defense for a fantastic empty net goal.

And while I watched the USA-Canada game, I noticed two things: Canada had a lot of lazy turnovers and the Americans played with nothing to lose. They're not supposed to be the No. 1 seed going into the knockout rounds. That was supposed to be Canada, who only tallied 5 pts with a win and shootout win over the Swiss and then lost to the USA.

Does this mean that the USA doesn't feel the pressure? Not at all. But they want to win just as badly as everyone else does. And obviously Canada is feeling the pressure more than Uncle Sam is. And Canada's road to the gold medal game just got a lot harder than Team USA's.

Either way, this tournament will be a success for the Americans and likely a failure for the Canadians. This is what expectations and perception will do to you in a tournament like this. Canada was expecting gold, the USA would have settled for a medal I think. Then the Canadians needed a shootout to beat Switzerland and the seed of doubt was planted in Team Canada. Team USA just helped it grow a lot more.

But this tournament isn't over until they hand out the medals. It's been 30 years since the "Miracle on Ice" and USA's last gold medal in hockey. But this wasn't a miracle. This Team USA can play with anybody. And they can play without the pressure of expectations on their shoulders. Unlike Team Canada.

That's a fine kettle of fish they've got themselves into, eh?
Posted on: August 6, 2008 8:12 pm
 

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly - August 6th

This is almost becoming a theme for me on this blog. I don't know if it works, but it's fun to write. A random smattering of sports topics from the past week or so, including one ongoing saga that might cause my brain to turn into mush...

The Good

Revolution Claim Superliga Crown

Most of you are asking, what the heck is Superliga and who are the Revolution? The New England Revs of Major League Soccer topped fellow MLS side, the Houston Dynamo, in an 8-team tournament that pits the best four teams from MLS and the Mexican Primero Division soccer clubs. The Revs topped the Dynamo 6-5 in a penalty kick shoot out after a 2-2 draw that included goals from both sides in extra time. The sad part about this game, it wasn't broadcast on TV, only on Telefutura, a spanish channel that I didn't have. But ESPN will pick up a "friendly"/exhibition between Spain's FC Barcelona and MLS' NY Red Bulls instead of the final of a "major international" tournament.

The Olympics

Forget the controversy with China and Darfur and the pollution, this event isn't about that, yet athletes continue to make it a big political soap box. I'm most looking forward to Kobe, LeBron and 'Melo and the rest of Team USA return to glory in Men's Basketball. Micheal Phelps going for some absurd amount gold medals again should be fun to watch. And the Men's and Women's National soccer teams will be in action (Women actually lost to Norway 2-0 already), meaning I've worked two soccer references into this blog and will probably lose ratings points because of it...

The Bad

Joba Chamberlain

Again, I hate the Yankees. I want to see lose 162 games every year because I hate their organization that much. I still respect the players, especially the young guys from their Series runs in the late 90s like Jeter, Posada, Rivera, Bernie. But I don't want to see this happen to the Yanks, especially with the three team AL East race with Boston and Tampa heating up. Losing Joba is a huge blow to the Yankees' already have problems in their rotation and now will be without Chamberlain for an extended period of time as he went on the DL and visited Dr. James Andrews, which is a first sign indicator that this could be serious.

NFL Gripes

Memo to the Giants and Jets franchises - Personal Seat Licenses are not the way to go. If I was a season ticket holder for a New York NFL team, I wouldn't renew my seats. I might partner up with other fans or get a package deal, but I wouldn't get season tickets. I have to pay for the right to buy season tickets? That's like charging me a thousand bucks to look at a house or a car. It makes no sense. And for that new Fan Conduct Policy, fans know where the line is. If you want to get smashed while tailgating and be a drunk, belligerent moron while at a game, fine. You can get tossed. But that's not going to stop me from jawing with the fans sitting near me. You can joke around with the kids, but they're off limits and you shouldn't be cursing near them anyways. This policy just outlines what fans should already know and I think it's useless.

The Ugly

NASCAR

Just one week after the debacle at Indianapolis, NASCAR decides to break out the rain tires and wiper blades for a Nationwide race in Montreal on a road course. And with the Sprint Cup and Nationwide series both at Watkins Glen this weekend, NASCAR will go to the rain gear again should the weather turn south once again. Nationwide drivers had enough problems last weekend, including a wreck under caution before the race was called 26 laps early. And NASCAR wants to try again? I don't like this idea. I like having the two road course dates to change things up, but let's try to solve one tire problem before tackling rain tires/equipment, okay?

Manny Being Manny Goes West

The Manny Ramirez saga in Boston finally ended with a three team deal that sent the surly slugger to the LA Dodgers. It was a sad end to an otherwise adventurous and successful tenure for Manny. He help lead the Red Sox to their first World Series in 86 years and then help lead the Sox to the title last year as well. Boston gets back Pirates All-Star Jason Bay, who's a solid player and should do well up in Boston. I don't know what caused this massive rift between Manny and the Red Sox organization this year, but it seemed to come almost suddenly to me. I'm not familiar with the background and I know that Manny has had past issues with the team, but to me it looked like water under the bridge. Either way, this trend of players being able to dictate trades and holdouts is getting old. Like another player we'll get to...

That's not a bad week or so of sports in my opinion. I returned to the Braves glog for some west coast action against the Giants. I am looking forward to the Philadelphia Eagles preseason and getting a look at a healthy offense, keyed by Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook. But there is one NFL story that will never end.

The Ugliest

Brett Favre

Brett, you can't play in Green Bay and you shouldn't play anywhere else. But please end this. I swear if I see one more ESPN Special on this...

- Eagle
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com