Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Saturday, January 17, 2021

Everyone knows how hockey-crazy they are in la belle provence. Now they’re enshrining the mania on an academic level, with a theologian at Universite de Montreal branding the local NHL team as the center of a veritable religion.

The similarities prompted Olivier Bauer to launch a crusade - in the form of a university course - to explore the many ties between a team that hails its sweater as La Sainte Flanelle — or holy flannel — and spiritual devotion.

“It was a divine inspiration,” Bauer said of the idea for his new French-language class, the Religion of the Canadiens.

“It was clear that the Canadiens were a kind of religion. For me, it was amazing that in Montreal there was a hockey jersey that is holy.”

There’s even a Habs holy trinity:

To back his thesis, Bauer refers to nicknames of the Canadiens’ most notable “prayer leaders,” including Saint Patrick (Patrick Roy), Le Demon Blond - the Blond Demon (Guy Lafleur) - and the team’s current saviour, Jesus Price (Carey Price).

Feh. Nothing against Price, but this early in his career, there’s nothing to suggest that he’s going to go down in history as one of the all-time team greats. Seems premature to put him in the same breath as the other Montreal notables. (I do, however, like the idea of the resident on-ice enforcer/goon as an “avenging angel”.)

And yes, I recognize a typical junk college course when I see one; they’re so rife in the academic world now that they’re scarcely worthy of mention. However, in the particular case of le bleu, blanc, et rouge, I’d hope that the “Richard Riot” is at least mentioned:

The Montreal Forum is evacuated, and violence spills out onto the streets of Montreal. Rioters smash windows, loot stores, and clash with police. The riot of St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1955, is seen by many as a seminal moment in the evolution of Quebec’s modern nationalist movement.

To the extent that the Canadiens and their symbols are galvanizing instruments for Quebecios separatists, that would toss this topic into the political sphere, more than the spiritual. So maybe the religious studies will avoid the off-ice history lesson.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 01/17/2009 05:57 PM
Category: History, Hockey, Political, Society
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Friday, January 16, 2021

The NFL on FOX has featured those smoothly-animated sports robots as onscreen “bug” mascots from the very first season of the network’s National Football League coverage, in 1994.

That’s a decade-and-a-half of those prancing, gesticulating metaloids. And I say, that’s enough. Honestly, they’re so old-hat by now that I’d want to see them booted out even if they didn’t happen to be super-annoying, to boot. Time for something new, FOX.

As it happens, Awful Announcing agrees with me. And even better yet, Conan O’Brien does too:

If this ridicule results in the ‘bots being thrown onto the digital scrapheap of television history, then all the silliness will have been worth it.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 01/16/2009 02:02 PM
Category: Comedy, Football, TV
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Thursday, January 15, 2021

Interesting tidbit from this look back at the World War II-era of merged teams in the NFL: Ironically, the merger of the organizations and rosters of the Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers in 1943 led to the split-up of traditional coaching duties.

Under Greasy Neale of Philadelphia and Walt Kiesling of Pittsburgh, who served as co-coaches, the Steagles also contributed to the game’s development. Because Neale and Kiesling hated each other, they divided responsibilities along the lines of offense and defense. Modern offensive and defensive coordinators were thus born of a loveless marriage.

And since the team rolled up a winning season under this new-fangled structure (albeit just barely, at 5-4-1), the notion stuck. Then as now, the NFL was a consummate copycat league.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 01/15/2009 10:31 AM
Category: Football, History
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Wednesday, January 14, 2021

I’m wondering just when the Canadian sports media is going to abandon the nickname “The Swamp” when referring to where the New Jersey Devils play. Because I’ve got news for our northern brethren: It’s outdated and inaccurate.

It used to fit, because for years, the Devils played at the sports complex in the Meadowlands. And yes, the area around East Rutherford, NJ is indeed swampy and fen-like. So nicknames like “Swamp” and “Swamp Rats” for the National Hockey League club were whimsically appropriate.

But that ended last season, when the Devs moved to Newark and their new arena, the Prudential Center. No swamplands in the Garden State’s largest city. There are plenty of other objectionable things about Newark, but they’re more of the urban-landscape brand; in fact, hockey’s own Barry Melrose got into some PR hot water over his disparaging remarks regarding such. But it’s a real stretch to tag the Pru’s surroundings as a new swampland.

This is typical of media professionals, who tend to cling to insiderish nomenclature years after it loses its original meaning. I’m assuming that Canadian hockey-watchers don’t particularly know or care about the particulars of New Jersey geography, so this misconception about the State’s only NHL team are bound to persist. But they shouldn’t.

So heads up, TSN. Because you seem to be the main offender, with headlines like the one above, “BACK TO THE SWAMP”, for news about Brendan Shanahan signing with the team that originally drafted him. Shanny’s back with his first NHL team, but he’s not heading back to the old swamp. And neither will any other Devil, for a long time.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 01/14/2009 09:57 PM
Category: Hockey, Media
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residential run
Given that modern stadium Personal Seat Licenses are a disposable-income equivalent of buying a lease, it’s logical that sports teams should target their ticket-sales pitches via property-brokering channels. So it is that the New York Yankees have engaged residential real estate agency Prudential Douglas Elliman to sell their ultra-pricey luxury boxes and premium seats in new Yankee Stadium to their house-buying clients.

Jim Grinstead, the editor and publisher of Revenues From Sports Venues, an industry newsletter, said he had never heard of real estate brokers marketing premium seating.

“The Yankees are tapping into a constituency to which real estate agents have better access than Yankee executives do,” he said. “It’s an interesting play. When people talk about pricing seats in stadiums and arenas, the phrase is ‘location is everything.’”

The Pinstripes are characterizing the move as simply another way to reach potential ticket-buyers in “an innovative way”, while insisting that the new barn is selling out briskly anyway. That’s a blatant lie, although it’s true that the seats would eventually get snapped up anyway; this is simply a quicker way to convert sales.

I’m looking forward to the strained marketing slogans to emerge from this seat-filling effort, either from the Yankees or Prudential. Especially from brokers, who could neatly wrap the promise of season tickets into a juicy lease, in an otherwise buyers’ market. Let me contribute the first: “If you lived here, you’d be behind home plate by now”…

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 01/14/2009 11:56 AM
Category: Baseball, New Yorkin', SportsBiz
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Monday, January 12, 2021

Here’s a turn of the phrase you don’t hear very often (at least I don’t):

Versus NHL studio host Bill Patrick led into tonight’s Detroit at Dallas game by declaring one of the Stars players (can’t remember who) as being:

“…hotter than the four corners of Hell!”

I guess that’s pretty hot. I didn’t even know Hell had four corners…

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 01/12/2021 08:34 PM
Category: Hockey, TV, Wordsmithing
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$3-mil bowl
It’s a landmark of sorts: This year’s Super Bowl (XLII for all you Romans out there) will feature ad spots that cost an average of $3 million per 30 seconds to air on NBC. (That’s just the airtime — add in the costs of making the actual TV commercials and you arrive at a healthy chunk of change.)

And yes, Great Recession or no, it’s totally worth it:

Some 97.5 million people tuned into the game last year, according to the Nielsen Company. Only the World Cup can compete in terms of size and scope, but that’s for a different type of “football” that doesn’t generate much excitement among Americans.

“The Super Bowl is completely unique in its ability to reach everybody at the same time,” said Tim Calkins, marketing professor of the Kellogg Super Bowl Advertising Review. “There’s nothing else that’s even close.”…

“What makes the Super Bowl unique is that this is the one time every year where, instead of complaining about advertising, we celebrate advertising,” said Peter Blackshaw, chief marketing officer for Nielsen Buzz Metrics. “You can’t really beat the reach and you don’t have to worry about people flipping on the DVR fast forward button, because people like to watch the ads.”

That’s why the tab keeps going up every year, and dramatically so: Only four years ago, the $2.4 million pricetag for Super Bowl XXXIX seems like a relative bargain. For more ways than one, as I laid out:

But consider the context: The television universe has splintered into a million segment over the past twenty years. Once upon a time, the big three networks drew 90 percent of the viewing audience, because there was practically no alternative to them. Accordingly, the value of advertising to that audience was relatively small.

Now, with hundreds of channels to choose from (not to mention other media), it’s harder than ever to attract a massive number of viewers to any one broadcast on any one channel. The Super Bowl is one of those rare events that can deliver a truly mass audience; that’s why it commands the big bucks.

Because it’s so much harder to pull that audience in, the value of getting in front of those eyeballs has exploded exponentially, even if the raw number of viewers hasn’t increased at the same pace. In essence, an audience of some 90 million in 2005 is worth a lot more than an audience of 90 million in, say, 1980.

Put it all together, and there’s just no more sure-fire guaranteed exposure in the advertising landscape — and attentive exposure, at that. As nebulous as advertising targeting is, with the infamous “wasted half” of budgets still a concern, this is one of the few media vehicles that allays those fears.

And that’s proven out by the near-sellout of inventory that NBC already boasts, three weeks ahead of the February 1st kickoff. A couple of high-profile Super Bowl mainstays have bowed out — notably FedEx — but overall it’s big-business as usual. (And I suspect FedEx is using this opt-out year as a test case, to see how much their business does or doesn’t suffer from the move.)

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 01/12/2021 12:37 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Football, TV
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Sunday, January 11, 2021

wingin' it
Don’t look now, but there’s a distinct possibility that the 43rd Super Bowl will be the first-ever Bird Bowl.

Because today’s 23-11 Philadelphia Eagles win over the Giants guarantees a bird-mascot representative from the NFC side, since the Conference Championships is now between Philly and the Arizona Cardinals, who bombed Carolina 33-13 yesterday.

On the other side, the Baltimore Ravens have their ticket punched for the AFC Championship game, with their 13-10 squeaker win over Tennessee yesterday. If they make it past whoever wins the in-progress San Diego-Pittsburgh tilt, then XLIII will be a feather-flying affair.

I’m hoping for an Eagles-Ravens matchup on February 1st. Along with the birding motif, the buildup over Philly’s subplots — Donovan McNabb’s and Andy Reid’s years-long tribulations, the Eagles’ championship drought, the city of Philadelphia continuing a path of championships after decades-long shortcomings, etc. — will make the pre-game hype more interesting than usual.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 01/11/2021 05:53 PM
Category: Football
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Friday, January 09, 2021

pass the helmet
The Super Bowl approaches on February 1st, so it’s shillin’ time here at Population Statistic. Courtesy of my blogging compadre Tara at When Tara Met Blog (who previously hooked me up with some Thanksgiving M&M’s).

This time though, you will profit from this corporate giveaway! Well, one of you, anyway. Read on:

Super Bowl parties are one of the top at-home party events of the year and have become much more than a gathering of football lovers, but a time to dissect the ads, eat party snacks and hang with friends. In fact, many people attending these parties do not necessarily love the teams playing as much as they love the excuse to get together with friends after a very cold month. So whether you are a diehard NFL fan or just want to party, Pepsi, the sponsor of the NFL Rookie of the Year, would like to offer your readers the chance to win an Ultimate Super Bowl Party Pack valued at $250 for their own at-home viewing parties!

Sweet deal, sounds like. Party Pack pictured above, consisting of:

- 1 football
- 1 beverage pail
- 1 snack helmet (my favorite!)
- 2 keychains
- 2 hats
- 2 t-shirts
- 5 Pepsi 24-pack coupons
- 5 Frito Lay coupons

Yes, you’re thinking the same thing I am: Nothing says “par-tay” like FREE KEYCHAINS! (Actually, they do look big enough to serve as drink coasters…)

But seriously, this is a legit giveaway. Pepsi is promoting its National Football League sponsorship, along with its new logos/look, dubbed “Refresh Everything”. (For the purposes of this little contest, you can disregard my previous disparaging assessment of this soda makeover — not that anyone checks my archives…)

So if you want a shot at this big-time pigskin swag, just leave a comment in the space below. I’ll randomly pick the winner on Sunday, January 25 (get your comment in by Saturday, January 24 at the latest). I’ll need a way to get in touch with you, so leave your email address where provided (don’t worry, it won’t be public). If you win, I’ll send on your mailing address to Pepsi so they can ship out the goods in plenty of time before game kickoff on February 1. And that’s that!

And in the interests of full disclosure: I’m not getting paid by Tara nor Pepsi for this. I will, however, get my own commemorative logo-emblazoned Super Bowl XLIII football for my troubles. Which I’ll probably promptly hand off to one of my little football-crazed nephews. Everybody wins!

UPDATE: I checked, and only U.S. residents are eligible to win this giveaway (yes, that means no Canadians, either). So sorry to Alex Scott, who commented below. Just when the NFL was whipping up overseas enthusiasm with those European games, too…

UPDATE 01/25/2009: AND THE WINNER IS… - I ran all 52 comments through the list randomizer at Random.org, which is as random as random can get. The one that came out on top was No. 17 by Melissa! She’s already replied back to me with her address, so the Pack will be sent on its way to her this week. Thanks to everyone for joining in.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 01/09/2021 11:39 AM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Bloggin', Food, Football
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light the menorah
An unexpectedly funny exchange occurred on MSG+ Network last night, during the usually dry New Jersey Devils pre-game show:

Stan Fischler was doing an interview with veteran defenseman Mathieu Schneider, who was in Newark with the visiting Atlanta Thrashers. I guess Schneider is involved with the Players Association’s negotiations with the league over the collective bargaining agreement and other issues, so Fischler questioned him about that. In particular, he brought up the debate over the NHL lifting its decades-old moratorium on playing games on Christmas Day.

Schneider replied (with a huge grin on his face), “Well, I’m Jewish. So you’re asking the wrong guy.”

“Actually,” he continued, still smirking, “I’ve been pushing for the NHL to take Hannukah off. So that’ll be a nice eight-night break from playing games!”

Of all the guys the Hockey Maven could have asked about the Christmas issue, picking one of the few Jewish players in the league (the only other one I know of is Jeff Halpern) amounts to pure comedy. Well done.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 01/09/2021 09:27 AM
Category: Comedy, Hockey, Society
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Wednesday, January 07, 2021

fighting words
Congrats to David Singer, HockeyFights.com founder and a frequent visitor to this here blog, on being interviewed by Yahoo! Sports’ Puck Daddy regarding the recent death of amateur hockey player Don Sanderson during an in-game fight.

Fighting in North American hockey is a recurring point of contention within the sport (it’s generally not in the rules in European leagues and prep/college play). So the Sanderson tragedy naturally has become a lightning rod for now-increased calls to have sanctioned fisticuffs banned from the NHL on down.

As you can guess, someone who runs a site called “HockeyFights” isn’t going to fall on the anti-fighting side of the debate. And the broadbased popularity of David’s site attests to the continuing support for five-minute penalty bouts on the ice. That support clashes with overt efforts to eliminate sanctioned fighting within the game, along with the more subtle de-emphasis by the NHL in rule refinements and marketing efforts that avoid mention of this aspect of the game.

Myself, as a fairly hardcore hockey fan? I can live with the status quo, in that I accept fighting as it’s currently codified in the NHL. If it’s popular enough with some of the fanbase that banning it would upset them, then leave things be. That said:

I’m not much of a supporter of fighting, and wouldn’t miss it if it were outlawed today. Hanging onto an activity that’s considered an ejection-worthy penalty in other team sports strikes me as antiquated. And as iffy as it is to judge any sport by the standard of another, I have to note that basketball, football, and other contact sports manage to function without the “outlet” that flying fists supposedly provides. Not to mention that this argument never ends, with re-flares coming at regular intervals — frankly, I’m tired of rehashing this debate when the value of it, for me, diminishes with each round.

The upshot? The situation brings to my mind Thomas Jefferson’s “wolf by the ear” comparative:

“But, as it is, we have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other.”

Granted, the slavery issue that Jefferson was struggling over was of considerably more importance than how a sports entertainment league governs itself. But the scenario is comparable: Hockey is confronted with a contentious problem, and whichever course of action taken by its guardians will lead to problematic consequences.

Fighting in hockey is indeed a wolf. Keep it or banish it, the resultant course won’t be easy to deal with. Eventually, the NHL and other leagues will make their choice, and hopefully we can all move on from there.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 01/07/2021 11:44 AM
Category: Bloggin', History, Hockey, True Crime
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Sunday, January 04, 2021

When you think of samurais, you think of samurai swords.

But the ancient Japanese warrior class liked using bow and arrow as well, especially while on horseback. Yabusame is the time-honored tradition of equestrian archery, akin to polo in England or rodeo in America, and the competition exists in present-day Japan:

The targets, held about seven feet aloft on small poles or scaffoldings, are roughly the size of a mounted opponent’s chest. There are three along the runway, which is only 165 yards long, giving the archer just enough time to raise his bow, load and shoot — three times — all the while spurring on his horse.

When the dull, turnip-shaped tip of an arrow strikes just right, the board explodes in a blur of splinters. But as often as not, the arrows miss, sailing past the targets and thudding into the canvas behind them…

Archers don’t actually sit. They squat, using special stirrups and very light saddles.

Something I’ll have to catch, should I ever visit the beaches of southern Japan…

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 01/04/2021 04:55 PM
Category: History, Other Sports
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big ice
This morning, I caught the replay of last night’s MSG Network “Hockey Night Live”, and heard an intriguing idea from — of all people — former Rangers great Ron Duguay:

In future Winter Classics, why not take advantage of the extra space inside the baseball/football stadium bowls and “spread out”, i.e. increase the size of the ice surface, beyond the National Hockey League regulation dimensions of 200 feet long by 85 feet wide?

Duguay’s primary rationale was that bigger ice provided better viewing opportunities for the mega-sized crowds, particularly those in the higher upper decks. He didn’t specify just how much bigger the sheet should be; certainly not supersized enough to fill a football field or baseball diamond, but I’d guess something considerably larger than the Olympic/international standard of 200′ by 100′. He didn’t cite any sort of improved player/game experience from a bigger playing area, which is a switch from recent history, when regular carping about giving players more room to move and make plays was commonplace.

Duguay’s “HNL” co-hosts shot down the idea pretty quickly. Their main counter-argument was that if the ice surface wasn’t NHL regulation, then the Winter Classic would cease to be a regulation NHL game, thus rendering it meaningless.

I’m not necessarily in favor of making this change. That said…

As we all know, regulations are made to be adjusted. My problem with the counter-argument is that, of course, the NHL has, in the past, functioned in buildings that housed non-regulation rinks. The Bruins (old Boston Garden), Blackhawks (Chicago Stadium), and Sabres (Buffalo Memorial Auditorium) all played on “short rinks” for decades, with the only justification being that the franchises didn’t want to lose seating capacity just to get up to regulation ice. So I don’t see any particular contradiction in messing with the ice size for an annual Winter Classic showcase game.

I can’t imagine re-jiggered ice being a popular move with the teams, particularly for the players who’d have to adjust their playing styles for a game that counts in the standings. And if the WC is meant to showcase NHL hockey, then you can argue that a different ice surface would showcase a different brand of hockey altogether.

Still, it’s outside-the-box thinking, aimed at enhancing the crowd-viewing experience. So it’s worthy of consideration, at least — if not actual execution.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 01/04/2021 04:12 PM
Category: Hockey
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Saturday, January 03, 2021

National Hockey League brass should be dancing with glee over the television ratings from Thursday’s Winter Classic:

The New Year’s Day event on NBC earned a 2.9 overnight rating and a 6.0 share, the best overnight NHL regular-season rating in nearly 13 years. The Red Wings defeated the Blackhawks 6-4 in the second U.S. outdoor game in NHL history.

To put those somewhat nebulous TV numbers into context: Earlier this holiday season, ABC scored a 5.3 overnight rating for a Christmas Day NBA game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics. That’s a comparable showcase sports event on network television, so it shows that, while hockey is still a distinct rung down the ladder from hoops (not to mention football and baseball), it’s at least closer to the same neighborhood than it used to be.

And of course, the 2009 Winter Classic showing was a healthy increase over the 2.6 rating for last year’s inaugural, featuring the Buffalo-Pittsburgh tilt. Basically, momentum is building, which is exactly what the league was hoping for.

I’m pretty sure the data-parsing of these numbers will show most of the viewers in Chicago and Detroit, with a respectable number of eyeballs in the Northeast and other hockey-heavy pockets. That’s certainly acceptable, as no one’s expecting Super Bowl-like penetration from a glammed-up regular-season NHL game. Again, it’s a process, and so far a successful one, both game-wise and exposure-wise.

For the immediate term, this means that the NHL will try to keep the ball rolling. Best way to do that is to again feature two big-market teams on New Year’s Day 2010, which translates into New York Rangers-Boston Bruins matchup at Yankees Stadium. I’d kinda prefer to see Denver host the next WC, but I can’t complain about getting a chance to see a local New York edition of outdoor hockey.

UPDATE, 01/04/2009: Courtesy of Puck Daddy (who I’ll also thank for the trackback and featured blockquoting), here’s the ratings breakdown for the WC among the nation’s top-ten markets, by local rating/share:

1. Chicago 11.8/21; 2. Detroit 10.5/20; 3. Buffalo 10.1/20; 4. St. Louis 5.3/10; 5. Pittsburgh 4.4/8; 6. Denver 4.2/10; 7. Providence 3.5/7; 8. Indianapolis 3.4/6; 9. West Palm Beach 3.3/6; 10. Orlando 3.2/5.

Pleasantly surprising as far as the geographic breadth. I’m not so surprised with the strength of the Florida showing, but am surprised that my old home region of Tampa Bay didn’t crack this ten — and got beat out by rival Orlando, to boot.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 01/03/2021 05:43 PM
Category: Basketball, Hockey, SportsBiz, TV
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Thursday, January 01, 2021

taking it outside
The second (annual) coming of the NHL Winter Classic earlier today came off about as perfect as it could. Unless you’re a Blackhawks fan, and had watch the home team blow a 2-goal lead to the Red Wings en route to a 6-4 Detroit win in the frozen confines of Chicago’s Wrigley Field.

But aside from the hometown letdown, it was a great game to watch, and a second consecutive picture-perfect outdoors showcase for the National Hockey League. Maybe better, mass-market wise, than last year’s 2-1 shootout win by the Pens over the Sabres, since ten total goals provided more than enough offense. (I generally prefer a defensive struggle.)

Some assorted thoughts from me:

- About the only thing that would have improved the spectacle would have been some snowfall, like last year in Buffalo. Didn’t happen, which actually improved the on-ice action. Besides, what snow there was in Wrigley was decorative:

To give the outdoor setting a more wintry look, the league pumped in some faux snow to fill in the outfield and surrounding areas around the rink. There were only two places on the Wrigley playing field that weren’t covered by the white stuff: the pitching mound and home plate. Who’d figure you’d need fake snow on New Year’s Day in Chicago?

- Speaking of the ice, it was well-praised by everyone involved. From what I saw, it looked like it was actually too cold, in that the puck had little glide under it for players to accomplish the standard long-range passes. That said, puck movement was crisp enough, and the shot totals (43-37 favoring Detroit) indicate that there were no problems.

- I thought the sight of the players emerging from their locker rooms, and climbing out of the baseball dugouts to get to the rink, was a nice touch.

- The selection criteria for future Winter Classics sounds interesting:

The league is expected to seize on the successes of the first two Winter Classics to establish a bid process not unlike that which determines hosting the All-Star Game and the entry draft. Teams and cities will have to put together a plan outlining why they deserve to host the game…

Look for the NHL to closely consider staying in baseball stadiums as opposed to NFL facilities, even if the number of fans would be far greater and the sight lines in baseball facilities aren’t necessarily ideal. Baseball facilities don’t pose as many scheduling headaches, and the field is flat as opposed to crowned, which was the case at Ralph Wilson Stadium a year ago.

All of which makes sense. As much as I’d love to see the Rangers host the 2010 edition here in New York (at Yankees Stadium), I have a feeling that next year’s event should take place well within the Western Conference. To me, the ideal host would be the Colorado Avalanche, playing in the MLB’s Coors Field during a wintry afternoon in Denver. Going up against either the Minnesota Wild or San Jose Sharks.

- And if the Avs want to clinch that, they should acquire the one player who’s now a fixture at these outdoor flings:

Detroit goaltender Ty Conklin was actually playing in his third outdoor NHL game, having been in the nets for the Oilers in the [Heritage Classic] in Edmonton a half-dozen years ago and again for the Penguins in Buffalo last January. The feeling, he said, never gets old.

- On the business side, I’ll be anxious to see the ratings report and other economic impact from this Windy City spectacle. Early indications are promising. And from my screengazing view, it looked like the league and NBC reeled in some high-caliber advertising, with Super Bowl-level spots on display. In particular, Go Daddy’s attention-grabbing commercials had a toned-down trial run today; I’m wondering if that could be a future trend, at least in years when the same network carries both the Classic and the Super Bowl.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 01/01/2021 11:21 PM
Category: Hockey, SportsBiz
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Sunday, December 28, 2020

perfectly round
There’s more than one way to achieve National Football League perfection. The Detroit Lions did it in the negative sense: With their 31-21 loss today at Green Bay, they went a perfect 0-16, winless for the season.

And unlike the anticipation that followed last year’s 16-0 New England Patriots regular-season campaign, there’s no pesky post-season that threatens to banish that sparkling zero in the Lions’ record. Nope, when you go oh-and-sixteen, you stay oh-and-sixteen — no further action required.

So the 0-14 1976 Tampa Bay Bucs have company as the only other team to lose every game in a modern-era season. At least that expansion team won’t see their overall 1976-77 0-26 streak get knocked down…

…Right? Well, technically, the Lions are very well-positioned to make a run for it. Counting Detroit’s 34-13 loss to Green Bay in Week 17 of 2007, the Lions are now officially on an 0-17 streak. If they open 2009 with a string of losses… Well, it’ll get ugly in Motown real quick.

You wouldn’t think it would happen. In the parity-driven NFL, it’s tough to sustain any kind of win-loss consistency, within a season or over the span of several seasons. But then, it was fairly inconceivable that the Lions could have dropped an entire 16-game schedule. At this point, anything’s possible.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/28/2008 04:55 PM
Category: Football
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Wednesday, December 24, 2021

As much as I despise wintry weather, there is one perk: The fun I get from knocking down overgrown icicles from the rooftop eaves.

Nothing like watching those earthbound missiles shatter spectacularly on the ground (yes, making sure there was nothing or no one nearby to errantly hit). Thanks to their proximity just beyond arm’s-length, I needed to make use of my trusty hockey stick to reach down and over to dislodge the icy hangers. No real skill involved, and I was surprised by how little tapping was required to break them off, considering how huge some were (more than a foot long, and about half as thick). I was a little disappointed — I was hoping to better practice my wicked wrist-shot technique.

Note that I was positioned above the potential ice-bombs, so there was no danger of them dropping on me. Which puts me one-up on this driveway-level, shovel-swinging idiot.

Not only that, but if I keep up this fun, I could parlay it into a seasonal sideline profession (in Russia):

After two people got killed by falling icicles in Moscow, the district administrators called in the spelunkers and mountaineers. Whenever I walk by a tall building and see a professionally equipped guy knocking down the icicles, it’s probably somebody I know.

I’m sure my hockey-stick method would trump anything those rock-crawlers can do. And if it doesn’t work out, I can sell my twig and pads to some Kontinental Hockey League scrub.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 12/24/2008 10:47 AM
Category: Hockey, Weather
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Sunday, December 21, 2021

He’s actually not for sale, but gawking is free:

Dozens of holiday shoppers, tourists and curious New Yorkers walking past the Roger Smith Hotel on 47th Street and Lexington Avenue were stopped by the sight of Tor Hamer, a 25-year-old heavyweight from Harlem, exchanging punches with his trainer, Shawn Raysor, in a display space usually reserved for mannequins.

The last time I was up that way, the Roger Smith was fronted by construction scaffolding, making the sidewalk on Lex already a tight squeeze. So I can imagine the pedestrian traffic jamming going on this weekend in front of that pugilistic display.

I would go check it out myself, but with the steady snowfall, I’d need a lot better reason to venture all that way than watching some palooka spar with himself.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/21/2008 11:45 AM
Category: Advert./Mktg., New Yorkin', Other Sports
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Friday, December 12, 2021

There’s no question that we’re in the thick of an economic crisis of historical proportions. While we’re all losing our shirts, we should come up with a name for our pain.

Except that mid-stream may be too soon for such labeling:

One day, perhaps, the slow-motion downturn of the economy will receive the same one-name treatment as Vietnam, Watergate and Iran-Contra. But for now, the language of the current economic woes remains understandably murky, despite the impulses of journalists…

CNBC, which has seen sharp ratings gains in recent months, initially called the economic situation a “credit crisis.” Eventually it became a “Wall Street crisis,” and before long it was a “Wall Street/Main Street crisis.” In the last week, “Great Recession” has become a popular phrase.

“Great Recession” might just be the ticket, since “recession” has supplanted the more negatively-tinged “depression” in econo-speak, even though it essentially means the same thing. Meaning that after all this blows over, we’ll have to find a semantically-softer word for future downcycles. I’m picking “correction” to rise from its current second-tier status and assume the new mantle, leading to a “Great Correction” sometime this mid-century.

Back to the present: People are chiming in with their titles. Something with “Meltdown” would be to my liking.

Better yet, why not take a page from the corporate naming-rights game in sports and entertainment venues, and sell the naming rights to this epoch? It would christen these bad times with a friendly business logo, and stimulate sales in some sector or another, thus contributing to recovery — in theory, anyway. Doesn’t “The Poulin Weed-Eater Economic Slump” have a nice ring to it?

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 12/12/2021 01:58 PM
Category: Business, History, SportsBiz, Wordsmithing
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Saturday, December 06, 2021

second suck
So the National Hockey League came down on Sean Avery over his questionable comments earlier this week, to the tune of a six-game suspension and mandatory anger-management treatment.

Let’s refresh ourselves on just what Avery said to get into hot water:

“I am really happy to be back in Calgary, I love Canada,” Avery said on camera this morning in Calgary. “I just want to comment on how it’s become like a common thing in the NHL for guys to fall in love with my sloppy seconds. I don’t know what that’s about. Enjoy the game tonight.”

The key phrase being “sloppy seconds”, obviously. Because if Avery were to have substituted a more neutral phrase there, like “my exes” or even “my leftovers”, there’s no way he would have been suspended. But “sloppy seconds” clearly connotes the crude, prurient actions upon which that piece of slang is based.

That was definitely the thinking of NHL brass in this whole thing:

“It’s clear that what he said crossed the line,” [Commissioner Gary] Bettman explained to TSN on Friday. “It was inappropriate, it’s not right for our fans to hear something like that and it’s not representative of what our players stand for….”

Again, had Avery been trash-talking by using what’s generally accepted as merely PG-rated wording, the league wouldn’t have stepped in. But because this was interpreted as an NHL player spouting foul language in front of a camera, he got disciplined. Again, the crux of it is the specific choice of “sloppy seconds”.

Not to defend Avery one bit, as it’s been corroborated that he was deliberately being provocative with this stunt. But let me throw this out there: Is the definition of “sloppy seconds” evolving away from its porn-like origin, into something more benign in the mainstream?

After all, in the talking-heads debates that flowed from this, “sloppy seconds” was used pretty freely, on TV and in staid publications. Obviously, it passed the current obscenity litmus tests there, so why should it be such a verboten phrase elsewhere?

I don’t have much to back this up, aside from a brief Urban Dictionary quip:

Alas, this word has now leaked into general usage and people are taking it to mean ‘ill-fitting hand-me-downs’.

To me, this mirrors how the now-inconsequential “suck” was neutralized, long ago:

In the words of the great political scholar and U.S. Senator Patrick Moynihan, “deviance” has “devolved downward.”

In language, this will lead to all kinds of semantic shifts…

“Suck” is one of these words. It has devolved from its oral/sexual meaning — with possible homophobic undercurrents — where it picked up its negative connotations, and has been applied as a harsh predicate to any subject the speaker or writer detests…

Again, this isn’t meant to absolve Avery. But it strikes me that this debate might be one of those things that the younger crowd will roll their eyes over, because they can’t figure out what the big deal is over a phrase that they’re using casually. And in a few years, the phrase will have lost its toxicity altogether. Maybe Avery’s incident represents an acceleration of this specific process.

Ideally, this is a subject for William Safire’s “On Language” column in the New York Times to tackle. But the chances on the Grey Lady’s Sunday Magazine containing an etymological dissection of some penis-and-vagina slang? Far-fetched, I know.

Nevertheless, language evolves. Even in a somewhat sloppy manner.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 12/06/2021 12:40 PM
Category: Hockey, Pop Culture, Wordsmithing
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Tuesday, December 02, 2021

second by second
What sort of comments would National Hockey League/Dallas Stars badboy Sean Avery have to make to get suspended by the league?

This kind:

“I am really happy to be back in Calgary, I love Canada,” Avery said on camera this morning in Calgary. “I just want to comment on how it’s become like a common thing in the NHL for guys to fall in love with my sloppy seconds. I don’t know what that’s about. Enjoy the game tonight.”

The specific sloppy seconds Avery is publicly citing appears to be actress Elisha Cuthbert, who’s currently dating Calgary Flames defenseman Dion Phaneuf. That’s who Avery would have been bumping heads with tonight, as the Stars are in Calgary for a game. He’d also done some tamer trash-talking earlier, calling Flames star Jarome Iginla “boring”.

More broadly, Avery was probably also referring to model Rachel Hunter, who’s another one of his exes and is now dating Los Angeles Kings center Jarret Stoll. In a similar vein, Cuthbert also dated Montreal Canadiens defenseman Mike Komisarek after splitting with Avery. So, apparently, all this hockey-related romance is all about him.

No telling how this kerfuffle impacts Avery’s fashion-model ad for The Gap, or his burgeoning fashion career in general.

Call me crazy, but I actually now wish Avery had stayed with my hometown New York Rangers for this season. Crude yes, but entertaining. Practically the NHL’s version of Terrell Owens.

Actually, partly because of Avery’s antics, I was all geared up to watch that Stars-Flames game tonight, as it’s being webcast on Y! Sports. I’ll still watch it, but it’ll have a bit less bite to it now.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 12/02/2021 07:22 PM
Category: Celebrity, Hockey
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