Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Hockey Is Not A Buick

There are certain athletes that define an entire era of their respective sports so much that they transcend the game and become larger than life in a sense. Michael Jordan was the definition of the NBA for over a decade until he prematurely retired from the game of basketball. Wayne Gretzky defined hockey in every sense for the NHL, and helped give the Sunbelt the game of hockey in the United States. Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron... all these men made baseball "America's Pasttime", and allowed little boys to become their heroes every time they stepped on a dusty baseball diamond. Tiger Woods looked to be cut from the very same cloth as these legends until he opened his mouth on television on Wednesday.

If there is one thing that should be taught to every single athlete, no matter what sport they play, it's that one should be gracious and thankful for the stardom they receive. In doing so, athletes need to understand that the cameras and reporters they speak to will carry their messages far further than they can imagine.

And in this regard, Tiger Woods decided to rain on hockey's parade. Make no mistake about it, the 2008 NHL Stanley Cup Final has been very entertaining, and the television numbers have reflected the excitement being generated. I would have been willing to grant Mr. Woods some leniency had he simply stated "I'm not a hockey fan". That would have been enough for me to grant him a pass. Instead, Mr. Woods opened his mouth, turned off his brain, and said this when asked of his prediction on Game Five:

"I don't really care. Let's talk about the Dodgers. I don't think anybody really watches hockey any more."

Oh, Mr. Woods... are you really that naive?

Back in March, Wayne Gretzky said of Tiger Woods, "He's the greatest athlete I've ever seen". That quickly prompted some members of the press to question Gretzky's comment, most notably bringing about images of the rotund John Daly, golf's finest example of what an athlete should not resemble. Gretzky quickly came to the defence of golf, saying, "You ever tried to golf? You better be a good athlete if you try to golf".

Now, I've tried golf. It's a gorgeous walk in a beautifully-manicured park, spoiled by a little white, dimpled ball. Yes, it'a a long walk during some rounds, complete with a visit to deserts, the woods, and a few ponds. Heck, I used to work at a golf course when I was younger, so I have an appreciation for all that goes into the game of golf.

However, for the world's most recognizable golf icon to insert his foot into his mouth entirely is nothing more than a showing of complete stupidity. Rarely do I ever feel as drained after playing a round of golf as I do playing three periods of hockey. Rarely am I ever as entertained by golf on television as I am when I watch hockey.

This isn't 2005, Mr. Woods. The Penguins' victory over the Red Wings on NBC drew the best overnight rating for a Game Three of the Cup finals since 2002. Pittsburgh's 3-2 win on Wednesday night earned a 2.8 national rating. The game also drew an 18.2 rating in Detroit, beating out the 15.9 rating that the Pistons and Celtics drew for their game in the NBA's Eastern Conference finals. The combination of the first three games in the Stanley Cup Final have made this the highest-rated and most-watched opening games of the Cup Finals since Detroit faced Carolina in 2002.

Let's push this even further. Games One and Two of the 2008 NHL Stanley Cup Final on Versus were the second- and third-highest rated programs in the cable network's history. Only Lance Armstrong's last Tour de France victory in 2005 rated higher.

Nationally, Game Four of the series was the top-rated prime time show in the USA on Saturday night amongst the key demographic for the NHL - men aged 18-49. Game Five set another bar as it produced the highest rating for a playoff game for NBC, the same NBC which airs golf regularly, since NBC re-acquired the TV rights in 2004.

Golf, however, has seen an dramatic decrease in television ratings as course designers fight the "Tiger Effect". Tournaments in which Mr. Woods is not playing have dramatically-lower viewership that when he is playing. In fact, the US Open, one of the premiere events in the world of golf, has seen the winning score average in at 5-over par. Joe Ogilvie said of the game, "It gets to the point when golf - even for us - gets pretty boring".

Face it, Mr. Woods. Hockey may not be your game, but it is a great game, and the US fans are joining the rest of the hockey world by watching tonight. Maybe you should tune in and watch Game Six before putting your feet smugly in your yap.

Until next time, keep your sticks on your ice!


Sage Confucius said...

Quite obviously Tiger Woods has no clue just how many off-season hockey players support golf courses around the world. He had an opportunity to not only support his sport, but promote hockey as well, and he blew it. He obviously loves golf and is very good at it. But as a professional athlete if you cannot at least respect another group of professional athletes, whether or not you like their sport, then you should just keep your mouth shut.

Teebz said...

I am quite sure he simply isn't a fan of hockey, but he still is an icon.

Just plain stupid, and I agree with you Sage - keep his mouth shut.

Kirsten said...

The only thing golf is good for is listening to the dudes with the quiet voices when you are having a hard time taking a nap. They always knock me right out.