Arts & Entertainment, Sports

Picking Splinters: Snakes in a Mailbag

Columnist Mike Hume delves into his mailbag to discuss abysmal hockey ratings and Eddie Sutton’s likeness to a plastic-faced mascot.

Mike,

Where’s my hockey, eh? Games on TV are harder to find than a parking space at a take out doughnut shop.

Eh,

B. McKenzie

 

The NHL has accomplished a lot of its post-lockout goals to rejuvenate the league, but this is an area where it has completely tanked. A New York Times article from early February discussed a game between the New Jersey Devils and the Florida Panthers that drew (763) viewers in New York. I have to check with the National Parks Service or something, but I’m pretty sure numbers like that qualify you for the endangered species list. According to the article, a professional lacrosse game attracted more viewers. No offense to lacrosse enthusiasts, but ouch.

Now, that game was on then Madison Square Garden Network, but my biggest complaint is with the NHL’s national broadcasting partner Versus, formerly the Outdoor Life Network. Last year things were bad, but I held my tongue because they were in their first year and actually formed on short notice. This year they get no mercy. It stinks. First, the games are only shown on Monday and Tuesday nights. Can’t watch then? You’re out of luck, eh? And the station is buried in my channel lineup. It should be right next to the ESPNs and Comcast Sports Net, instead it’s lodged between the Golf Channel and Speedvision, miles away from the most popular sports stations. It might not sound like that’s a big deal, but it is. A week ago I was watching snakes in high definition on the Discovery Channel because it’s close to ESPNHD. Snakes in HD. They weren’t even on a plane. And here’s the kicker … I HATE SNAKES! Scared to death of them. And yet I was watching the show because it was near the station I was watching.

But, 40 or so clicks from the major sports networks? No one is going to be surfing over to that station in between commercials. And what grills me is that the station is owned by Comcast, who presumably can fix the glitch any time they want. And yes, I almost forgot, since the station is owned by Comcast, it isn’t universally offered by other providers, meaning you might not even be able to get it in your home.

I blame the network for the previous shortcomings, but I’ll rake NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman over the coals for the fact that the NHL All-Star game was held on a Wednesday night and again, on Versus. NBC broadcasts a number of NHL games each year, but apparently the biggest names in hockey couldn’t even seduce the network to show the game. This means that either Bettman had no bargaining power to get the Peacock to change its mind after ruffling a few feathers, or he didn’t even try. Both are pretty pathetic.

I know that attendance is up league-wide (except in Washington where free pizza and the world’s greatest player aren’t enough to entice marginal fans), but the visibility of the sport is gone thanks to this deal with Comcast. When hockey was on ESPN, you got games throughout the week on both ESPN and ESPN2, a highlight show with Barry Melrose AND his mullet, constant plugs for games during Sportscenter and comprehensive coverage on its website, ESPN.com. Under the “Game Analysis” tab on the Versus website you get the bios of their announcers, not so much about breaking the neutral zone trap. No stats. No standings. And as of 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 28, they hadn’t even updated the scores from their televised games on Monday and Tuesday night. And yes, those broadcasted games would be the only scores you can get on the site.

Someone, somewhere better do something about this before I start having high-definition nightmares of rattlesnakes. I hate snakes.

 

Mr. Hume,

What, no mention of college basketball!?!? It’s time for March Madness babyyyyyy! How about some love for the Dukies and their great humanitarian coach?

Wooooow,

D.V.

 

Thanks for the question, though your pre-cognition of my answers is slightly scary. I’m saving most of my college hoops munitions, including any mention of Duke, for my upcoming March Madness installments, but I will say this. In the past few weeks I’ve gotten to watch Oklahoma State play quite a few times. I know Eddie Sutton is still the face of the program and all, but I really think it’s going a little far. Every time I see the guy he looks more and more like OSU’s cowboy mascot, Pistol Pete. I mean it’s uncanny. Smile, Eddie. Once. Please.

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