It's not every summer that you see a nasty feud between an 86-year-old college football program with seven national titles and an 8-year-old NHL team that hasn't been to the playoffs yet. But that's exactly what's spilled into the mainstream media in the Midwest: a vocal segment of Ohio State Buckeyes fans bitterly decrying the coverage and attention bestowed upon the Columbus Blue Jackets.
This all started with a letter from a chap named Keith B. Whittington two weeks ago in the Columbus Post Dispatch that slammed the paper for cutting into its Buckeye worship with hockey coverage: "I understand the desperation to keep hockey relevant in central Ohio, but your constant draft, post-draft, and free-agency material is way overdone."
This led to a swarm of Blue Jackets fans writing into the Dispatch. They compared the number of comments on their respective blogs, called Ohio State fan "myopic" and claimed that "Columbus is no longer just a college town. We're the 15th largest city in the nation; we have major-league sports that deserve the coverage you provide." The NHL Arena Program also took up the fight:
I imagine my focus on hockey is probably comparable to their love of college sports, and the love for Ohio's best representation each year. But does that make me believe that I am afforded the right to suggest that OSU sports are nothing more than childish competitions between kids not even old enough to buy alcohol? No. It most certainly is not, just as it isn't Joe Schmo's right to suggest that the Blue Jackets do not have a right to succeed in buckeye country.
The third (and final?) round was fought in the pages of the Dispatch on Sunday, including this sarcastic gem from a hockey supporter: "Get rid of the Business section in The Dispatch -- that allows for three more pages for Buckeyes news and less financial gloom in my life."
Before we get back to this Columbus smackdown, two questions to kick around in the comments:
1. Isn't football a different animal than any other sport? Basketball getting a mountain of press would irk me; but would you, as a hockey fan, take offense to the local NFL or major college football team getting covered at a 3:1 ratio to the local NHL team?
2. Where does hockey fall in the local sports pecking order in your town?
Here in DC, the Redskins aren't so much covered as they are deified. Hockey receives an insulting amount of coverage; judging from the news space, the postseason ended when the Washington Capitals were eliminated. (This is because local media has no conception of hockey's popularity in the area, but that might finally be changing.)
But over-coverage of the 'Skins is just a fact of life in Washington; much like coverage of Ohio State is in Columbus.
That said, the nitwits who find any coverage of non-Buckeyes sports offensive are likely the same ones who believe a regular-season football story belongs above the fold in 'Section A' every Sunday in the fall. They have a delusional devotion to an entertainment product that creates a warped sense of entitlement. They're like Batman fans who nitpick "The Dark Knight" because it didn't soothe some deep-seeded fanboy desire they've held since 1983. ("OMG, they totally didn't get Harvey's coin right...")
During my time in Columbus for the draft, I was blown away by the Blue Jackets fans' passion. I was also blown away by how Buckeyes logos are everywhere but on the urinal cakes (depending on the bar you're in). The number of hockey fans who also support Ohio State is likely quite high.
That said, the Blue Jackets must be tired of shoveling, having dug this hole for the franchise during eight years of losing hockey.
The notion that press coverage of the Blue Jackets in Columbus amounts to charity for a struggling franchise could be erased with one foray into the playoffs.
UPDATE (10:20 a.m.) -- Smarty-pants friend of Puck Daddy Japers notes that I failed to mention new Blue Jacket R.J. Umberger, a former Ohio State player, in this post. His joining the Jackets is an interesting OSU/BJs connection, if only because he could be the hybrid to bring these warring factions together -- like the Star Child from "V: The Final Battle."
The fact that Umberger is a marketable Buckeye wouldn't be a factor in his gobbling up stats as Rick Nash's center, would it?