Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Fastballs and fast pucks

As kids, my mother would sometimes take us to Dayton Bombers hockey games. The Columbus Blue Jackets did not exist; I was hardly aware there was a professional hockey league akin to Major League Baseball. I never watched hockey on television except during the Olympics, when USA hockey was my favorite event to watch. Later on at Miami University, we had a good hockey team, and I attended as many games as I could. However, except for a brief moment of off-season boredom when I began to collect hockey cards, the NHL was not a part of my life.

That changed in 2003 when I moved to a city with an easily accessible NHL team. Hockey became something to do in the off-season; I went to Caps games when you could get a cheap ticket and move close to the ice. Then Alex Ovechkin arrived and hockey became something to look forward to.

But hockey could never be a love affair; it would never come close to baseball. I never learned all of the rules, and I hardly know the opposing teams players. I’ve come to wonder why I don’t know more about the sport, as I’ve certainly watched enough of it by now. How is it I can know the entire roster of a team the Reds play once or twice a season but I can’t name a single player on the Rangers, a bitter rival of the Caps?

I may have found the answer as I watched the Caps’ playoff game last night. At one point I found myself turning to Chris and saying, “I feel grateful for the TV timeouts.” When you’re watching hockey, you can’t turn away and do something else. Not only was I also trying to watch the Reds game on another screen, but I was attempting to complete Wapo’s crossword puzzle – something I can do while watching baseball – and found it difficult to turn my eyes from the game, lest I miss a goal.

In baseball, even when your best hitter is up, you know there will be no action between pitches, and you even know the timing so you can look away and back again before he swings. Because of all this time, baseball broadcasts are full of graphics of league leaders and obscure stats, information on the batter and the pitcher, and all kinds of other minutia. There is enough time to absorb it all and more. Not so with hockey, where it’s difficult enough to follow the puck, let alone the name on the back of a guy’s jersey.

It’s just a theory, but hey, it’s plausible.

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