NBC's Disappointing Winter Classic Coverage

puckI just watched the first period of the Penguins and Capitals from Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. I realize there's a Leafs game on, but it's the Winter Classic and I'm a sucker for events, even silly made-for-TV sporting events, and the HBO 24/7 series actually had me psyched for this one. Besides, the Leafs are handling the Sens with ease.

Because the Leafs game was on CBC here in Toronto, I watched most of the first period on NBC. It was horrible. Not just the commentary, which was clearly aimed at the non-fan or casual fan, but the camera angles. NBC keeps going to this aerial shot that is so distant it's impossible to follow the action. They keep going to this shot because they can, and normal games are indoors, making such stunts impossible, but they're going to it far too often and for far too long.

Even when we're not getting the aerial shot, it feels like the camera is simple too far away. I've been watching hockey on television for thirty years and I'm having trouble following the play. How is a non-fan or casual fan supposed to enjoy the game?

It's also dingy. I didn't notice how dingy it was until I switched to the CBC feed. The CBC feed was bright, close to the action and far superior.

I get it... sorta.... For NBC, the star of this show is that it's outdoors and played in a football stadium. Hence the long distance shots. For CBC, it's the Pens vs. Caps and we're getting standard angles and proven shots. It makes for better hockey.

It's just a shame we showcase our game on NBC and don't look our best. No wonder Americans are so indifferent to the greatest sport in the world.


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Crosby vs. Gretzky: The Great Xmas Debate

puckI don't see my brothers as often as I used to, but when we all end up in the same room, as we did yesterday for Christmas, great debates ensue. Yesterday, my brother Ryan declared confidently that if Gretzky were playing in today's NHL, Crosby would be the better player.

I almost choked on my turkey when I heard that. I asked him to clarify the statement, to ensure I wasn't misunderstanding the premise of his argument. Basically, if both Wayne Gretzky and Sidney Crosby were 23 years old today, and you had to draft one of them to play for your team, my brother Ryan would draft Crosby. I think he's nuts.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm a big Crosby fan. Even when it became cool to hate on the kid, I rooted for him. I still root for him, and consider him the best player playing the game today.

But really, Ryan, picking Crosby over Gretzky? Even in today's lower scoring NHL, that's crazy. Until this season, which is still fairly young, the great debate was whether Crosby was the best player in the game today. In fact, Crosby hasn't even dominated the scoring lead on his own team over the past few years. Malkin's beat him a couple of times. Nobody came close to Gretzky.

And that's my point. It's not about Gretzky owning the record books, it's about how much better Gretzky was compared to #2. If you leave aside his first season in the NHL, Gretzky's next four seasons saw him annihilate the league's second best scorer. Check this out...

1. Wayne Gretzky, Edmonton - 164
2. Marcel Dionne, Los Angeles - 135

1. Wayne Gretzky, Edmonton - 212
2. Mike Bossy, NY Islanders - 147

1. Wayne Gretzky, Edmonton - 196
2. Peter Stastny, Quebec - 124

1. Wayne Gretzky, Edmonton - 205
2. Paul Coffey, Edmonton - 126

Hell, in that 1982-83 season, Gretzky had more assists than anyone else had points. Then again, when all was said and done, Gretzky retired with more assists than anyone else had points. And oh yeah, he's the most prolific goal scorer in NHL history.

But what about my brother's point that the game has changed? I'm not suggesting Gretzky would get 200 points a season in today's NHL, I'm just suggesting he'd dominate and easily win the scoring race. And as much as I love Crosby, he's not doing that today. Over the past 4 seasons, Crosby has only won the scoring race once, by 6 points over Joe Thornton.

But I'll leave this debate by stealing an argument I read on the HFBoards.

Gretzky was better than Jagr. Sure by the mid 90's when Gretzky was getting old and ready to retire, Jagr was the better player by then, but Jagr at his peak never equalled Gretzky at his. I don't think there's many who'd disagree to that. Jagr only played 2 seasons in the NHL overlapping with Ovechkin, yet in both seasons Jagr outscored him. The first by nearly 20 points (123 to 106), the second by only 4 (96 to 92). Still, he outscored him both years. You could argue that Ovechkin was younger - these were, afterall, his first 2 years in the league, but Jagr was getting old. These were his last 2 seasons in the NHL afterall, not the 5 years of him winning Art Ross trophies. I realize this is a small sample size, being only 2 seasons, but if AO couldn't outscore Jagr (and neither Crosby nor AO have managed to equal Jagr's 123 points from 2005 season, let alone his 149 career high), and if Jagr wasn't as good as Gretzky, then how can AO be better than Gretzky?

Got that? I'll simplify it... Crosby hasn't yet had a season like Jagr's 123 points in 2005-06, which was after the lock-out in today's NHL. So even if you manage to argue Crosby is better than Jagr, and that's a better argument IMHO, nobody will ever suggest Jagr was as good as Mario Lemieux. So if Crosby = Jagr, and Jagr < Lemieux... I'll entertain a "if they were both healthy" debate about Lemieux vs. Gretzky, but we know Lemieux didn't stay healthy and that Gretzky had the superior career. So, if Crosby = Jagr, and Jagr < Lemieux, and Lemieux < Gretzky, how can you argue Crosby > Gretzky?

You can't, and the entire debate is silly. But was it ever entertaining!

If you had to choose between Gretzky and Crosby, and both are 23 years old and the year is 2010, who do you pick?

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Metrodome Roof Collapse Video From Inside

snowI hear they've got a lot of snow in Minnesota. It's raining here, but Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa are getting buried.

They had to postpone the Giants-Vikings game because the Metrodome roof collapsed under the weight of all that snow. Check it out.

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Lebron James Is Not Michael Jordan

basketballThe Lebron James Rise ad for Nike opens itself up nicely to retorts and mash-ups. We recently enjoyed Cleveland's response, and now there's Michael Jordan's response.

Now that's a mash-up that rings true. Lebron James is no MJ.

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Driscoll Middle School Trick Play

driscollDriscoll Middle School in Corpus Christi, Texas ran this trick play during their championship game against Wynn Seale on Saturday.

They're calling this a really slow quarterback sneak.

I don't care if it's legal, it's unsportsmanlike. I'd have refused to participate.

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Canadians in the NFL

NFLI'm watching a bit of the Bills game. It's here in Toronto, so the broadcasters just went through the obligatory "Canadians in the NFL" segment.

That got me wondering, how many Canadians are playing in the NFL today? Surprisingly few, it seems...

Cory Greenwood, KC, Kingston, ON
Vaughn Martin, SD, Toronto, ON
Jamaal Westerman, NYJ, Brampton, ON
Austin Collie, IND, Hamilton, ON
Jon Ryan, SEA, Regina, SK
L.P. Ladouceur, DAL, Pointe Claire, QC
Nick Kaczur NE, Brantford, ON
Israel Idonije, CHI, Brandon, MB
Nate Burleson, DET, Calgary, AB
O.J. Atogwe, STL, Windsor, ON

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Lebron James' "Rise" Commercial & Cleveland's Response

BasketballNike has released a new ad featuring Lebron James. It seems like most of Nike's big ads these days are designed to rehabilitate the image of one of their athletes. I'm thinking about that Tiger Woods ad with the voice of his father...

This one is called Rise and here's Nike's version. After you watch this, be sure to watch my preferred version.

Below is Cleveland's response to Nike's Rise ad. This one is much better.

I love that we live in an age where Nike can't release an ad like Rise without the communication becoming a two way street.

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That Moment in 2004 When I Rooted for the Red Sox

red soxI grew up with the old AL East. It was my beloved Jays along with the Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Milwaukee Brewers and New York Yankees. I hated those last six teams with all my heart and soul.

The two teams I always had the most hate for were the Yankees and Red Sox. I hated them the way I hate the Habs and Sens in the NHL. I could never, ever root for the Yankees or Red Sox, at least I thought I couldn't...

I just watched a 30 for 30 ESPN production called "Four Days in October" and it brought me back to a brief period in 2004 when I actually rooted for the Red Sox. Looking back, I think I was transferring the plight of fellow Leafs fans with the plight of Red Sox fans. It was a crazy time, you had to be there.

I was blogging here in 2004, so it's easy to follow my flip-flopping and see what turned me.

  • October 12, 2004 / 10:54 EST - I wrote about the curse of the Bambino and explicitly predicted the Yankees would beat the Red Sox in their series. I had no doubts.
  • October 14, 2004 / 10:31 EST - I wrote about former Blue Jays in the playoffs. I stated how nice it would be for John Olerud to play for another title and how likely that was considering the curse.
  • October 17, 2004 / 12:44 EST - With the Red Sox down three games to none, I laughed at those who didn't believe in the curse. "There is a curse and Boston will never again win another World Series. Mark my words."
  • October 20, 2004 / 07:56 EST - Prior to the seventh game between the Yankees and Red Sox, I was looking forward to seeing "what new creative way Boston finds to cough it up". I thought the three game winning streak was "a giant tease to make Red Sox fans believe again."
  • October 21, 2004 / 15:12 EST - Shocked by the Red Sox victory the night before, I start to believe in the impossible. I start to believe the Red Sox could win it all. "Everyone suddenly has warm-fuzzy feelings about all things New England and if they manage to reverse the curse and win the World Series Kerry may ride that Boston high to victory on November 4th."
  • October 22, 2004 / 08:17 EST - I throw my support behind Larry Walker and the Cardinals referring to my "hate on" for the Red Sox and the fact history repeats.
  • October 22, 2004 / 18:11 EST - A Guest Blog by my brother Steve accuses me of brushing the Boston victory under the blogging carpet. In response, I write "I must be the only one who hasn't embraced them."
  • October 27, 2004 / 16:09 EST - I stumble upon a message on a Red Sox fan bulletin board that brings a tear to my eye. "Win it for Ted, who once said, "If they ever won it, I would feel so @#%$ warm inside."" At this point, I'm rooting for the Red Sox as I relate their fans' woes to mine as a die hard Leafs supporter.

Yes, it was that damn Red Sox fan bulletin board post that did it for me. It was like they were talking to us Leafs die-hards. In fact, I've written a "win it for" message for this blog when the Leafs return to the Stanley Cup finals. I can't wait to publish it.

I haven't rooted for the Red Sox since.

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Dear Mr. Hicks: Liverpool FC Fans Let Owners Have It

liverpoolLiverpool FC is owned by Americans Tom Hicks and George Gillett. Liverpool FC fans are not happy with their leadership.

Filmmaker Mike Jefferies produced a little video entitled "Dear Mr Hicks" that features disgruntled Liverpool fans. Here's that video:

It's enough to make you wish we Leafs fans had a face to blame for our recent disgraces, the way we blamed Harold Ballard in the 80s. Dear Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan doesn't quite pack the same punch.

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I Love This Hartford Whalers Pic

photoMy bud Vinay Menon linked to an SI slide show on NHL / music collaborations.

As I was perusing the list I came across this write-up about the Hartford Whalers' Brass Bonanza.

But what struck me was the photo that accompanied the SI story. It's one of the most beautiful pictures I've ever seen. There's something about this pic...


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