You Can Keep Your Football, I Have My Hockey
I hate football. There I said it. Now grab your pitchfork and torches and come get me. Tell me how stupid I am. Tell me how misguided and unAmerican I am . Explain to me over and over and over and over and over how football is the greatest sport in the world. You may have to wake me up though as the entire topic bores me to the brink of coma. It's not that football is a bad sport. It's not that it's athletes don't deserve the credit they get for being some of the top in the world. To me, the sport is boring. I haven't sat through an entire football game since... well... ever. Just when things are about to get interesting, they usually cut to commercial or call time out or just waste time in general. I just can't get into it. But that doesn't mean I didn't give it a chance. I understand the game. I understand why things are done. I just get bored. So now that you're rustling in your seat trying to think of sassy comebacks to defend your beloved sport - which you most certainly have the right - I want to explain myself. I'm a hockey fan. (Cue gasps and rolling of eyes).
The only sport I watch continueously is Ice Hockey. I turn on the NHL Network when I wake up in the morning. I watch a lot of games throughout the year and I'm one of the biggest Washington Capitals fans you're ever gonna meet. I grew up playing hockey in Bowie, MD. I live it. I breathe it. I play it, still. To me, hockey the greatest sport in the world, and I defend it whenever I can, which is most of the time because it is always being sh*t on. But why? I have a theory. Most people agree with it. Most people are insulted by it. Some people just shake their heads and try to rack their brain around it and then try to argue with me about why football is better (and it's always football being argued). Do you want to know what my theory is? OK. Here it is. Brace yourself. Hockey is too smart and too fast for the average American to watch and understand. Now put down the knife and let me explain.
I know a lot of people who like hockey. They won't sh*t on it when it's on TV at the bar. They will ask questions. They will go into an explanation about how they never got into it but they like it. How they never played ice hockey, but they used to play street hockey as a kid. How they don't understand what 'icing' is. I enjoy talking to those people. They give the sport a chance. They appreciate the atheleticism involved - and then go into another explanation of how they almost broke their tailbone at a pubilc skate when they were in high school. Hockey needs people like this to grow if they ever want to compete with the other three major sports in this country. But it won't. The problem with hockey is that it's too fast. If you don't know the game, you're not going to know how to follow it. Like I said before, I understand football. I know what's going on. I gave it a chance - still do. The majority of people who dislike hockey never gave it a chance because they don't understand what's going on. They hate the long season. They hate the two month post season. They hate the players - even though they don't know any. They hate how fast it is. They hate how they can't see the puck. They hate, hate, hate.
The dynamics of an average NHL game are complex. There's a method to all that madness - just like football. With hockey, however, there's little time for a fan to breakdown a play or summarize what's going or even register what's going on before the next play happens - especially if they have no idea how the game works. With other sports, slower sports, there are mintues upon minutes upon minutes of time to kill before the next play happens - and for a kid with ADD who needs constant stimulation, I tune out.
Now I'm not knocking hockey-hating people about their smarts. I'm just stating an observation from talking with people who don't like hockey and watching and listening to other people complain about it. And It's always the same complaint: "It's stupid!". Aside from the fact that they can't follow it because of the speed of the game, they really have no other argument. I have another theory about that.
Hockey isn't something you can just go play. You can't strap on your skates and go outside with your friends unless you live in Canada or Minnesota, etc... Hockey is expensive. It takes a lot of practice. It's a frustrating sport to learn to play because you have dedicate yourself when you're young. Anyone can go outside and toss a football around. Or baseball. Or go to the basketball court. Even kick a soccer ball around. The mechanics of hockey have to be taught early on in order to become good at it. Now I'm not saying that any idiot can play these other sports. I am just saying that they're easier to pick up then hockey. I truely believe that is biggest difference between my sport and the other ones. That, and the fact that all ESPN talks about is football, football, football. But that's a whole other issue that I'm sure I'll talk about later.
To me, hockey is the greatest sport in the world. It's physically and mentally exhausting. You barely get a break, but it leaves you wanting more. There are fans of hockey who have never played before who cannot understand what I mean, and the hockey-haters will never understand because they don't even want to give hockey a chance - because it's "stupid".
They don't know what it feels like to wake up at 4 or 5 in the morning and drive to the rink. To watch the fog slowly lift off a freshly cut sheet of ice. To strap on a pair of skates with edges so sharp they cut through the ice and send echoes through the rafters with every stride. They don't know what it feels like to catch a perfect pass and rip down the ice and ring the perfect shot over a goalies shoulder. Every stride, every shot, every save, it's all part of a game that creates a new story for each person that steps on the ice. It's passion that has no equal. You have to play the game of hockey to understand what any of this means. To an outsider, it means nothing but a bunch of goons skating around banging their sticks and fighting each other, but to someone like me and my friends, it's much more than that. It's respect for the game. It's respect for each other. It's a comradery that is best described as brotherhood. No sport has a community like ice hockey. You can go to a rink and know someone just by the way they play. It's passion. It's dedication. It's beautiful. And I love every second of it.
Hockey is my life, and to those 'haters' out there who think that it's weak, I'll leave you with what Brendan Shanahan said about our sport when asked "Is hockey hard?":
"I don’t know, you tell me. We need to have the strength and power of a football player, the stamina of a marathon runner, and the concentraion of a brain surgeon. But we need to put all this together while moving at high speeds on a cold and slippery surface while 5 other guys use clubs to try and kill us. Oh yeah did I mention that this whole time we’re standing on blades 1/8 of an inch thick? Is ice hockey hard? I don’t know, you tell me.