Thought of the day

It’s as if the Bruins like 7-game series.

Why sports matter

Whenever a Boston team does well, my Facebook feed blows up. (I have good friends.) People celebrate, say how happy they are, and cheer on whatever team happens to be playing. When the Bruins recently won the Stanley Cup my feed was full of happy friends. And I certainly contributed to the celebration. It’s something special to see a favorite team win a championship.

But there’s always one or two people who have to be Debbie Downers. One update I saw was pretty typical: ‘It’s just a game, people’ (paraphrased). Or take PZ’s post about the Vancouver riots:

Some team in Canada won the Stanley Cup, which prompted happy revelers to…riot and destroy public property?

He eventually corrected his post to reflect the fact that Vancouver lost (How you like them apples, Luongo?), but such inaccuracy reflects the level of concern PZ has for sports. That particular post doesn’t demonstrate his indifference adequately, but anyone who follows Pharyngula knows PZ is not a sports guy.

And that’s fine. I happen to really enjoy sports – I can watch just about anything that isn’t soccer – but I don’t expect everyone to love them. To each his own, right? But what I don’t like is the dismissal of sports as unimportant.

Let’s go back to that status update. “It’s just a game” is the common refrain of those who believe they have the greatest of perspectives on sports. ‘Why, it’s just men running around trying to score goals or runs or whathaveyou. Who could care about such a thing?’ These people are missing the big picture.

Spending an entire season following a team is an emotional investment. It takes energy and devotion and it can even be draining. It doesn’t matter that it’s other people who are performing the amazing feats. It isn’t important that anyone can watch a grueling hockey game while devouring a pizza. And who cares that people who have never skated or never played an organized game on the diamond or done any of that stuff can follow the action? None of that changes the fact that it’s so easy to get wrapped up in the emotionalism of sports.

And there’s far more than that to it all.

My first professional sports experience was a game at Fenway with my dad in 1999. I didn’t watch sports at that point – which is ironic considering my dad’s occupation as a sports journalist – so I couldn’t appreciate the fact I was seeing Pedro Martinez pitch in one of his Cy Young years – a year when he won the pitching Triple Crown and turned in one of the greatest pitching performances ever. No, I hardly had a grasp on all that, but there was so much more to appreciate. I appreciated the Fenway franks. I appreciated the cheers of the crowd. I appreciate that I saw the Green Monster when it still had its netting (though the seats look great). I appreciate that I sat in a park, which now holds the record for most consecutive sell outs, during a time when it was possible to just show up and buy a ticket on the day of the game with ease. But one of the things I appreciate the most is that my first professional sports experience was with my dad.

It took me some time to realize it, but the point of going to that game was for the sake of the whole experience – father and son. I had asked my dad if I could bring a friend, fearing how much I would enjoy watching a game I didn’t understand. He told me he could only get two tickets, so the answer had to be no. I decided to still go, but it later dawned on me that he had also invited my brother. There had to be a third ticket available. My dad wasn’t just inviting me to a game for the sake of hopefully seeing a Red Sox win. There was a much more important reason he wanted me to go to that game – a reason that would only insult the reader for me to explain any further. (The Red Sox did win, by the way, 7-2 against Anaheim.)

To dismiss any sport as “just a game” is to dismiss all that comes with being a fan. Whether it’s the personal emotional investment – it’s difficult to understand the relief felt by so many Red Sox fans in 2004 – or a family affair, sports are important. They intertwine with the lives of many of us in ways that rise above a casual game of Monopoly or cards. They have an impact on us in ways that are value-heavy and memory-impressing. They have an effect on our lives that give meaningful experiences we often would not – or could not – otherwise have.

Sports matter for their ability to rise above being mere games.

Thought of the day

I love that Boston* has been the City of Champions for the best 11 years. 2001, 2003, 2004?** Patriots. 2004, 2007? Red Sox. 2008? Celtics. 2011? Bruins.

What makes this all even greater is that many of these series have been spectacular. All of the Patriots victories either came in the final moments of the game (’01, ’03) or it wasn’t sealed until the very end (’04). The Red Sox made their way through an epic comeback against the Yankees in order to get to the World Series and capture their first title in 86 years. The Celtics, insofar as basketball matters, beat the Lakers to get their league-leading championship. And now the Bruins have ended their own lengthy drought (39 years), winning three game 7’s in the process, one of which was against the rival Canadiens (the second greatest rivalry in sports), not to mention the redeeming second-round sweep of the Flyers.

And as if it can’t get better, the Patriots always have a shot, the Bruins are well-positioned to make another run next season, and the Red Sox are the best team in the American League right now. Not only has the best decade+ belonged to Boston, but it looks like the trend might continue into the next several years.

*Yes, I know the Patriots are not located in Boston.
**While the Patriots actually won in ’02, ’04, ’05, the NFL counts those victories as occurring in the ’01, ’03, and ’04 seasons.

Congratulations, boys

Well done, Bruins.

Update: From Facebook – “Luongo, do you like apples? How about them Apples?”

Bruins

4-0 tonight, series tied 2-2.

Dear Bruins,

Come on.

Thanks, Horton

I appreciate it:

Horton scored his second overtime goal of the postseason on Wednesday night, waiting until 5:43 of the extra period in Game 7 to give Boston a 4-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens and help the Bruins advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

“Just getting to the playoffs is all I was really thinking about. This has been a dream come true,” said Horton, who never reached the postseason while spending the first six years of his career with Florida Panthers. “I’m really enjoying it. I’m enjoying it more every day.”

And this was despite the refs donning Canadien sweaters for most of the night.

Thought of the day

Finally.

Screw you, NBA

I was angry with the NHL for helping Refuffalo against the Bruins. Fortunately, the Bruins still won their series because, well, Ryan Miller can’t do it all, even with the men in stripes helping his team. Then I was even more angry when Refadelphia was given the right to not take penalty minutes despite deserving them. But at least they lost to a better term in the end. And at home. Fuck you, Philly fans. You are the worst fans in sports. (You’re still number 2, New York.)

But none of that represented a fundamental problem with the NHL. This was an issue of terrible reffing in two series I watched closely. And, sure, the reffing was pretty bad throughout the playoffs besides where the Bruins were involved. It wasn’t as bad as the two Bruins series, but it was bad. But again, that isn’t typical. There isn’t a fundamental issue with the rules or reffing in general in the NHL. It’s still the most exciting sport there is.

And until now I thought soccer was on the exact other end of the spectrum. Take this video for instance.

I don’t care enough to look up the names of those involved, but basically the Nigerian player (green) went to kick the ball as the Greek (white) player picked it up after it went out of bounds. It was obviously just a reflex: “Hey, a soccer ball! Kick it!” It doesn’t appear he made much contact, if any, but that doesn’t matter. Soccer is filled with a bunch of divers, so the Greek player hammed it up, falling to the ground like he tore 11 ACLs. (Yes, 11.) This got the Nigerian player a Red Card, kicking him out of the game. And all because soccer is such a mamma’s boy sport.

If someone tries to get a call in hockey and overdoes it like that, he may well get the call, but he’ll also be given 2 minutes for diving. The NHL doesn’t accept this weak, hamming-it-up play that soccer embraces.

But as it turns out, that isn’t the other end of the spectrum. The NBA is nothing but feather-touch penalties. Brush a guy with the ball? Foul. Make contact with the ball and maybe touch a loose jersey? Foul. Look at a guy wrong? Foul. That’s all it was last night during the final 45 minutes of Game 7. (And by 45 minutes, I mean 7:30 minutes of actual clock time.)

It seemed like the entire game rested on who could make the most free throws. And in order to do that the NBA has made virtually everything a foul. Not that the players don’t embellish or ham it up. They do. But the NBA and people like David Stern (the worst commissioner in sports – don’t worry, Goodell, you’re a close number 2), hold most of the blame. And it is blame. Game 7 of the 2010 NBA finals was perhaps the worst sporting event I have ever watched, worse than the 2006 World Series where the ‘Champion’ Cardinals didn’t win anything (the Tigers just lost, is all).

NBA basketball is the antithesis of what a good sport, such as hockey, should be.

In the interest of full disclosure, everyone who reads this blog knows I’m a Boston/New England sports fan. But my interest in basketball, especially the NBA’s nancy-variety, is extremely limited. I wanted the Celtics to win by default, but I’m far from torn up over their loss. What bugs me more is that I wasted so much time watching such a terrible, terrible sport.

First ever evidence of a god discovered