Single page view By Skip Bayless
Page 2

You will not finish this column.

In fact, it will hold your attention for only two more paragraphs.

As soon as your eyes cross the name of the sport I'm writing about, they will cross literally. Your central nervous system will send a message flying toward your brain like a puck across ice — he shoots, he snores! The red light over your cerebrum will flash and your hand will involuntarily move the cursor to the "back" arrow.

A moment later, you will be happily mainlining stories about spring training or the NBA All-Star Game or NFL free agents or Jose Canseco talking about what steroids could have done for Manute Bol. Anything but ...

H ...

O ...

C ...

K ...

E ...

Y ...

Sorry, I tried to clutch and grab you as long as I could. I'm writing the rest of this column only for me. Call it self-therapy.

I: Why do you hate hockey so much?

ME: I don't hate — I just cannot bring myself to like it or watch it on TV or care whether the owners and players ever come in from the cold. For me, trying to follow the last few days of negotiations was even more confusing and frustrating than trying to watch a hockey game. I couldn't find the puck — the sanity, the logic, even a conclusion. My friend E.J. Hradek has been on "SportsCenter" every four minutes the last four days saying it's on, off, on, officially off, and now he's saying there's still a chance of a last-ditch settlement. Hockey, The Thing That Wouldn't Die.

I: Admit it: This is the most interested you've ever been in the NHL. Maybe you've developed a subconscious fascination with it.

ME: Oh, please. I can't even watch "Slap Shot." E.J's losing his voice; I'm losing my mind.

I: Come on, you're smarter than this. By now it should be as clear as rinkside Plexiglas that the owners' goal from the start was to break the players' union and start completely over with an economic system that will take this sport off such thin financial ice.

ME: So let me get this straight: Hockey owners have been paying baseball-sized salaries in what amounts to a minor-league sport that relatively few people in this country will watch on TV? I mean, hockey has fallen below Arena Football in the ratings. Poker buries it. American viewers are telling this sport what hockey hounds from here to Moose Jaw should have known all along: The very concept of hockey is irreparably flawed. Hockey is hokey!

I: You certainly didn't think it was hokey the night you covered the Miracle On Ice at the 1980 Olympics.

ME: It wouldn't have mattered if the United States and Soviets had been playing charades that night. The point was that a bunch of no-hope college kids from America shocked a pro juggernaut from our Cold War rival.

I: But you'd have a soft spot for hockey if you had played it as a kid.

ME: That's what they've said for three generations about soccer — that kids who play will grow up to be soccer season-ticket holders. Wrong. Hockey and soccer are great games for kids to play, and for parents to watch their kids play. But when the kids grow up, they usually prefer to watch NFL exhibition games on TV to hockey or soccer.



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