Friday, December 22, 2006

THE NHL: THE ALTERNA SPORT OF CHOICE

I have a long personal history with being immersed the world of American professional sports, a history not always congruent with my other passion for underground music. There was a point in my life where I forced myself to choose: sports dork or music dork? I chose the latter, and for most of the late 80s and almost all of the 90s I barely paid attention to even my local teams and certainly never read the sports page. This followed a period of off-the-charts baseball obsession from about 1977 on, as well as being a San Francisco 49ers season ticket holder during “the glory days” of Montana/Clark/Rice/Young etc. Until about 1999 or so, I hadn’t felt the call of the armchair athletic in many years – that is, until I re-discovered hockey and the NHL. I say re-discovered because like many patriotic ‘Mericans, I got deep into the NHL following the 1980 Olympics “Miracle on Ice”, in which we vanquished the Ruskies and created at least two awful subsequent filmed melodramas that I know of, but I lost that again after a couple of years for baseball and football fever.

But about 7 years ago, I found that hockey, especially on the West Coast, is sort of an insider’s club, one with the same sort of chip of its shoulder that underground/garage/outsider rock has. Naturally that sense of insecure superiority worked for me, as oxymoronic as that sounds. Hockey fans out here, myself included, perpetually carp on how poorly our sport is covered, how it has a total East Coast/Canadian bias when it is covered, and how everyone thinks it’s just a bunch of toothless skating goons bashing into each other, when it’s in actuality the most graceful and exciting sport known to man, one with almost total action and more dramatic highs & lows than anything else. I think that sense of insecurity helps to deepen fans’ allegiance to the sport, and I’ve found the parallels with the way me & my pals approach music strikingly familiar. In fact, the number of underground music freaks who’d cite hockey as their favorite sport is likely far higher per capita than if a similar survey were done with non-freaks. It’s true, just trust me on this anecdotal fact.

I don’t have time or enough interest to follow any more than 2 sports faithfully, because I believe that if you’re going to “follow” a sport, you need to go deep. Therefore I’m all over the NHL and Major League Baseball, but I bet I couldn’t name any more than 6 or 7 active NFL players right now. I picked a good time to get into the NHL and my hometown team, the San Jose Sharks, because they’re just about the hottest thing going in the sport – ESPN says so! In my six years of Sharks/NHL freakdom (six because there was that one year they went on strike, the one year I paid some attention to my family), they’ve missed the playoffs just once and are arguably the team with the biggest “upside” for the next 5 years or so in the whole of the game. I should probably give a shout-out to my friend Danny P, who is singularly responsible in coaching me from mild, slow-burning fandom into full-blown maniacal fandom. Back in the eighties if I’d expressed this sort of enthusiasm for a sport to a hottie punk chick or some dude in a band I’d run the risk of being called a JOCK, god forbid – but now I’m a boring dad, and I don’t care! Come with me. Come with me into the light, and watch an NHL game on TV this week. Come be a sports dork with me.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

But, Jay, the "new NHL" totally sucks. Haven't you noticed?

-jeff g

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I don't think I'll have time to take in an NHL game this week since I'll be too busy trying to watch as many NBA games as I can.

finn (Nuggets fan/music dork)

Anonymous said...

Can't not post on your NHL entry here. Good point comparing NHL fandom to liking outsider rock. The number of times I've walked into a bar May and have had to ask a bartender to turn off an insignificant regular season baseball game and turn on hockey playoffs is too many to count. Liking hockey is like trying to convince the Beatles-loving world that the Fugs have value. Ah well. This morning I had to flip to page 4 of the sports section to get the recap of the Sharks spirited win against the Flames. Page 1--A huge article on another loss by the pointless Raiders and another loss by the forerver mediocre Warriors. Such is life as an NHL fan.

DP

Michael Day said...

Sorry, your fledgling soccer fandom didn't take off. But soccer's one sport you have to be dedicated to practically year round anyway, because of the length of the seasons in most of the bigger leagues. I dabbled with other sports for a while until the rise of the internet and exploding cable tv coverage made it possible to follow the game pretty easily now. Subsequently, that's all I have time for these days.

When I first moved to the States in 1982, I wanted to learn how to play ice hockey, but it never happened. The ice skating class at school conflicted with my English class or something, so the skates that my parents got me never got used, and that was pretty much that.

hockeydad said...

in Canada the biggest music paper organizes a hockey tournament every year made up of musicians and industry people only. But I guess everybody likes hockey in Canada.

http://www.exclaimhockey.ca/

I found your blog looking for music reviews and was stoked to see something about hockey... I run a small label in Vancouver...
www.myspace.com/hockeydadrecords

the music isn't really hockey related.