The National Hockey League needs to wake up, and wake up real fast. This past week was one the league did not take advantage of. We are all aware of the great game Sunday when Team USA played its guts out only to lose in overtime to the Canadians in the gold medal round of the Olympics.
Great game, super effort, and a very healthy TV audience of some 27.6 million viewers in the U.S. and another 32 million in Canada watched. More Americans watched the game Sunday than watched the most-viewed World Series game or NBA Finals game this past year, 22.6 million and 16 million viewers, respectively.
My question to the NHL commissioner is: “What did you do on the coattails of this momentum to help promote the game of hockey?” From my perch, I saw nothing. Now, I understand that hockey, like baseball and hoops, has too many games. Only hard-core fans really care until the playoffs begin, but this was a golden chance to get the public more interested in the NHL and hockey. Heck, every player, referee and coach that was involved in the game was from the NHL.
Here are some suggestions to help Gary Bettman keep his job:
1. Keep your mouth shut. The players were barely in the locker room and Bettman made a statement that he thinks that in 2014 he will not stop regular-season play for the Olympics. Gee, what a buzz kill!
2. How about taking out a newspaper ad and have Sidney Crosby and Ryan Miller standing there thanking everyone for their support. We visualize hockey players as goons — humanize them.
3. Although the season resumed right away, allow two or three of them to appear on Leno or Letterman. That is worth its weight in gold, no pun intended. Drew Brees made the rounds after the Super Bowl, as did Derek Jeter after the World Series.
4. Hockey has a hard-core fan base. There are no casual hockey fans. Hey Gary, appeal to the casual fans. Make us like these guys as people. I know nothing about Miller on a personal level.
5. Lastly, get rid of NHL fighting and all the goonlike behavior. There were no fights Sunday, just a well-played game. Try and adjust the rules for more scoring and more offense. Obviously, football did — and look at the results. A while back, baseball interest had leveled off and what did they do? They lowered the mound, livened up the ball and moved the fences in. Guess what? MLB is back!
Hockey needs to be fixed and better promoted. After all, this is the year 2010. Duh!
College hoops coverage kicks into overdrive
ESPN — and its broad scope of outlets, including ABC — is such a monster. Starting Thursday, and running through March 14, it will televise 177 basketball games. That’s correct — 177. This includes almost every league tournament on Earth and numerous women’s games.
All of this basketball on the tube and March Madness hasn’t even started yet. As we all know, the NCAA Tournament is televised on CBS. There is a strong undercurrent that ESPN will make a strong bid to televise the tournament when the NCAA-CBS contract is up. After all, they now are the proud parents of the BCS games in college football.
For my money, the ESPN broadcast team of Sean McDonough, Jay Bilas and Bill Raftery is the best. They will do nine Big East games during this time period. They have the right balance of fun, knowledge and professionalism. After all, one can only take so much of Dick Vitale.
Jordan on top
Something about Michael Jordan being the owner and president of an NBA team does not sit right with me. I loved the guy as a player and a team figurehead, but as a nuts and bolts guy — no chance.
Coach Larry Brown had better stay on top of every aspect of the Charlotte Bobcats because MJ does not seem like the anal, detailed person that is required to be the man in charge.
The Daly show
The Golf Channel has come up with their own version of “The Real Housewives of Orange County” with a show titled “Being John Daly.” It premiered last week and was quite entertaining. He reminds me of Charles Barkley in a lot of ways. Outspoken, honest, self-deprecating, and at times, just a common guy. I will not run home to watch it each week, but it is still pretty entertaining for the usually boring Golf Channel.
In case you care, the NFL announced this week that the Pro Bowl will be moving back to Hawaii for the next two years and be played a week before the Super Bowl.
Who said it
“A goalie in hockey is like a catcher in baseball catching for both teams. He spends the entire 60 minutes of the game crouched and ready to make a play,” the ESPN analyst said about the goalie play during Sunday’s gold medal game. I never thought of it that way, but come to think of it, he is 100 percent correct. I like it!
“I am making progress with my gambling and drinking,” stated TV’s newest reality show star. Now I am confused when you say progress, John, does that mean you are knocking these two vices out of your life or getting better at them?
Sports by numbers
$123 million 2009 NFL salary cap for each individual team
$7.8 billion Adjusted 2009 NFL revenue
59.9% Percentage of revenue NFL players received in 2009
One to watch
Academy awards Although it’s not really a sports event, how can anyone pass up watching the Oscars tonight? What a great TV event to people watch. Expect to see all the big stars out as “Avatar,” “The Hurt Locker” and eight other movies duke it out for Best Picture honors. ABC (KGO, Ch. 7) will carry the event beginning at 5 p.m. from Los Angeles.
With the Olympics in the rear-view mirror and baseball just warming up, let’s talk about the best show on nonsports TV, NCIS. This is the No. 1 rated scripted show in America. Ex-UCLA quarterback Mark Harmon is the glue that holds this show together, as he stars as special agent and complex squad leader Jethro LeRoy Gibbs. This show is brilliant because the balance between humor and serious investigative work is unparalleled. Every Tuesday at 8 p.m. on CBS is must-watch TV.
Artie Gigantino spent 25 years as a coach at the major-college and NFL levels, was lead college football analyst for Fox Sports Net for seven years, was with CBS for one year and was an executive with the Raiders for three years. E-mail him at email@example.com.