Wednesday, May 5, 2010
The Sushi of Sports
I have been watching a metric ton of Stanley Cup playoffs this spring, and not just my now dismissed Washington Capitals. As such, I have pondered what has kept hockey at such a miserably low TV rating for pretty much, well, forever.
For starters, it is a sport that I would venture 90% of the sports watching men in America have never, ever, ever played. Not just on ice, but even street hockey.
This is the biggest, primary barrier to the sport.
There are other reasons - lack of stats, preponderance of European/Canadian players, difficulty in seeing the puck, lack of basic strategic understanding. I could go on and on with those forever.
But cutting to the heart of it, I think, is the fact that most of hockey is frustration and failure. There is very little scoring compared to other American sports (although, more than soccer), and most plays are foiled at some point well before resulting in even a shot on goal.
Which 90% of the time, statistically speaking, turn into saves. Which is a success for the goalie, but ultimately a failure for the offensive team.
Hockey to the un-initiated, is lots and lots of hacking, whacking, checking and grabbing.
Yet to me, and others who love the sport, or played it at any level (me, C League adult ice hockey at midnight with other middle aged dudes) the game remains electric, flowing, and filled with constant tension.
In this way, I think hockey is the sushi of sports. If you like it, you LOVE it. If you don't, you'll never eat it. Period. It's gross. All or nothing.
I said this on my radio show on Tuesday, and got many thoughtful responses. This was one.
I'm with you, hockey is exactly like sushi. I think the "lots of failure" is close but not quite the whole picture. Growing up in Michigan I used to play and am a big hockey fan but watching in DC and with my friends and occassionally my girlfriend, here is why I think Americans aren't into it:
1. People don't understand the game/rules, my friends ask me constantly what certain things mean. Probably comes from most people not playing growing up so they aren't attached.
2. Its hard to watch. Americans are all A.D.D., the non-stop action without a break to stop and chat with your friends is not condusive for the casual fan. The small puck also plays into it being hard to follow.
3. Its hard to follow your favorite superstar player during the game. Without clearly defined possessions, shifts where players come and go without a clear break (not to mention they are only on for a minute at a time) coupled with equipment that makes it hard to follow them while they are all playing makes it impersonal for most fans.
Ok that is all. Thanks.
-Joe in DC