Monthly Archives: August 2016

AN OPEN LETTER TO GARY BETTMAN

Dear Mr. Bettman,

I am a lifelong sports fan with the great game of hockey being my personal favorite.

As I watched the proceedings over the past two weeks in Rio I couldn’t help but think about our grand old game and the international stage.

This weekend in particular I saw professional athletes compete in basketball and soccer.  Yes, the USA men’s and women’s teams that were loaded with NBA and WNBA talent lead the way en route to gold medals.  Once again it was sport at its best, not college kids against “professionals” from nations lead by dictators.

Today’s bronze medal basketball game came down to the wire and was gripping.  It featured Australia and Spain, who also carried NBA talent.  The United States squad that dominated Serbia this afternoon almost lost to them earlier in the tournament.  The semi-final game against Spain was also close.

On the soccer pitch  both men’s and women’s play was even and spread among many teams.  Brazil’s men took gold in dramatic fashion as penalty kicks decided their match with Germany.  The American women were supposed to dominate, however they ran into a machine from Sweden, who almost beat Germany for gold.

All of this backdrop brings me to the point of this letter.

Imagine if the NBA, WNBA, and various soccer leagues were contemplating what you keep hinting at involving international play and the National Hockey League.

Once again there is talk of the NHL not sending players to Pyongyang in 2018.  What a colossal shame it would be!

Since professionals joined the Olympics in 1998 consider how the gold medal has been distributed.  Canada, who could never beat the Soviets with their amateurs, have won three times.  The Czech Republic and Sweden won the other two.  The last time the machine from Russia saw gold was when the Unified Team won in 1994.

I am genuinely excited for the upcoming World Cup Of Hockey.  I love to see the NHL’s best having the deck shuffled.  While it makes for great theater, this is a preseason tournament with most of the players coming back from the off-season. The players aren’t ready for the regular season let alone a world-class international tournament.

If the National Hockey League is considering ending its relationship with the Olympics, as a hockey fan I urge you to reconsider.

I live in South Florida and follow the Florida Panthers.  I would love to see the likes of Aaron Ekblad play for Canada and Aleksandr Barkov play against his teammate while wearing the crest of his native Finland.  Consider the story line of a 46-year-old Jaromir Jagr playing once again for the Czech Republic.  By the way Jagr would turn 46 during the 2018 Winter Games.

American hockey was the top story in the recent NHL draft.  Could a strong Olympic presence of the US be the reason?

So many other story lines could be made.  Can Alexander Ovechkin lead the Russians to its next gold medal?  Can a growing pool of American talent bring home gold for the first time since the Miracle in 1980?

If the NHL does pull out of Olympic play I can’t help but think that we would return to the same old Russian dominance at the Olympics.  The Russians would send a Kontinental Hockey League all-star team to the games.  The professionals would run away with the gold in the same fashion as the American women from the WNBA did once more in Rio.

Please take this into consideration.

 

Signed,

Brian Karpel

Hockey Fan Since 1970

 

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TIMES HAVE SURELY CHANGED

As every football fan is now aware, last Sunday night’s Hall of Fame tilt between the Green Bay Packers and Indianapolis Colts was canceled due to poor field conditions.  The problem with the field?  The quality of the paint used for the logo at midfield and the lettering in the end zones.  To me this brings about questions of what seemed to be a string of gaffes by the people responsible for getting sports venues ready for play.

My first question is the obvious.  The NFL Hall of Fame Game originated in tn 1962. How is it that the grounds crew at Fawcett Stadium has prepared the field for play in each of the past 54 years and couldn’t get the right paint?  How does that happen?  Or is it a question of the NFL and other professional sports fine tuning events like this to the point of it being ridiculous.

The paint problem in Canton is another in a series of interesting gaffes in professional sports in recent years.

October 15, 2013, Comerica Park in Detroit:  During Game 3 of the American League Championship Series between the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers  a power outage occurred causing a delay.  There was just one problem, the game was played at 4:00 PM with the outage occurring in sun drenched conditions.

June 6, 2014, AT&T Center in San Antonio:  Prior to Game 1 of the NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs, the air conditioning system malfunctioned.  The game went on as planned with complaints from players, coaches and fans about such awful conditions.

Super Bowl XVLII, New Orleans Superdome:  Shortly after play resumed following halftime between the Baltimore Ravens and San Fransisco 49ers the game was halted due to a power outage.  About half of the lights overlooking the playing field went out, however the field was still lit by the other half.

On the surface, all of these events have an argument for being halted due to sub-par conditions, however I disagree.

First off, what happened in Canton on Sunday should have been inspected by the league, the Hall of Fame and the teams on Saturday  This would have allowed time for at the very least, the paint to be scrapped.

Having grown up in the 1960’s and ’70’s I look at the series of events that I discussed earlier through a different set of eyes.  Those of you in my age group might remember when sports was more game than TV production.

Consider the days when baseball and football were played in the same place.  Shea Stadium in New York was home to both the New York Jets and the New York Mets.  The Jets played on a field that ran from home plate to center field, leaving half of the gridiron in the infield dirt.  The same was true at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium which housed the Baltimore Orioles and the old Baltimore Colts.  It was accepted, that’s the way it was done.  In 1993 when the Florida Marlins joined the Major Leagues and called Joe Robbie Stadium home, it drew the ire of Miami Dolphins fans since the Fins had to play September and in 1997 and 2003, October on a field that had a dirt infield at one end.

Who remembers the old Boston Garden and Buffalo Memorial Auditorium?  Both buildings had no air conditioning.  The Boston Celtics played many NBA Finals games in sweltering heat and used it to their advantage.  The Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres played many playoff games in which fog rose from the ice.

Many might remember games at Wrigley Field that were suspended because the players could no longer see the baseball.  It was accepted, Wrigley was the last hold out for not having lights.

Sports has become such a network production that it may have lost some of its edge.  Imperfection is not necessarily a bad thing.

 

A Vote For Putting Your Best Bat & Glove Forward

Ah the Olympics, that sportsfest that occurs every four summers and every four winters but dominates our airwaves every two years.  The 2016 summer variety is now underway in Rio de Janeiro and, like most, I have had my eyes glued to the proceedings since Wednesday when the women took to the soccer pitch.

Two days after the soccer competition opened and  the world witnessed yet another stirring opening ceremony, the International Olympic Committee announced its event lineup for the Tokyo games in 2020.  The glaring American story was the return of baseball and softball to the Olympic stage.

This once again brings about the great Olympic debate, amateurs vs. professionals.  Should this just be for the fun of sport, or should this be an opportunity for the best athletes in the world to put their best foot, glove, hockey stick, etc. forward?

Beginning in 1992 the Olympics took on a professional dimension.  Since then we have seen the likes of the NBA “Dream Team”, the NHL shut down every fourth year to allow a level playing field to compete in the Olympics, and FIFA having the best of the best compete on the Olympic soccer pitch.

I believe its time for Major League Baseball to join the party.

The All-Star Break, for generations occupied the time frame of the second midweek of July and included travel days on Monday and Wednesday with the main event occurring on Tuesday night. Play would generally resume on Thursday with four game weekend series. That has changed over recent years.  The All-Star Break today is made up a week-long event that includes a Sunday prospect game, a Monday Home Run Derby, the main event on Tuesday and days off on Wednesday and Thursday.

Imagine this scenario. The All-Star Break is now a week-long event.  The postseason now stretches into the final days of October and is routinely stretches into November.  Why not do this?  Begin Spring Training around February 15th, break camp the week that March ends, (or March ends and April begins) forego the All-Star Break and take these two weeks and have the best baseball has to offer play for their country in the Olympics?

Most would have this reaction, wouldn’t this just be another American grandstand much like basketball?  I offer you this, Ichiro leads a Japanese team that is steadily sending players to America to play in the Major Leagues.  The Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and Cuba will show how popular our grand old game has become across the Caribbean.  Mexico and even Canada are better in baseball than most people think.

Professionalism is now a part of the Olympic Games let’s make the sport of baseball the best in can be on the Olympic stage.