Stephen A. Smith is the embodiment of everything hockey fans ferociously loathe about the way ESPN covers the NHL on its networks.
It’s that drive-by, superficial analysis from basketball fans, treating hockey coverage with the enthusiasm of a child forced to visit that creepy old relative who smells like mothballs and is always cooking cabbage. It’s that ignorance of the sport, acting like a heavyweight boxer being asked to opine on the intricacies of Quidditch.
And more to the point: It’s the damn, stupid, insipid, insulting, unprofessional pride with which they flaunt that ignorance.
Like when Stephen A. Smith on SportsCenter Monday morning boasted that he was unaware that Columbus has a National Hockey League team; despite 13 years of existence and, at the very least, having been the trading partner with the New York Rangers for Rick Nash, the same Rangers team that plays in the city where Smith has a daily radio show to, presumably, talk local sports.
That buffoonery emerged at the end of Monday’s S.A.S. rant about the NHL, specifically the Chicago Blackhawks’ 21-game point streak to start the season, obliterating the previous League record. Because ESPN can never judge the NHL on its own merits, the gimmick here was the comparison between the Miami Heat’s 14-game NBA winning streak vs. Chicago’s completely incomparable streak in a completely incomparable sport.
Cue Stephen A. Smith, who apparently hasn’t watched an overtime game since 2004:
Hockey … has … ties?
Here’s the full S.A.S Blackhawks’ take, with some additional context:
“Excuse me … it wasn’t 21 games. It was really an 8-game streak. There are three ties. I’m sorry, that doesn’t count.”
Well, of course it does. That’s why the Blackhawks’ record isn’t called a “winning streak” by anyone with a tangential knowledge of the NHL, but rather a point streak. In fact, that’s what the ESPN graphic said to begin the segment. Why would a point streak be counterfeit because of a “tie”?
Better question: Why is this national sport commentator unaware that the NHL changed its playoff format two work stoppages ago?
“I’m not into the tie business. This isn’t soccer. OK?”
First off: That's a lovely tie he's wearing. But there are no ties in the NHL. There are ties, however, in the NFL, just like in soccer. Maybe it’s a fu[oo]tball thing.
“And and and and and and the hockey stuff, I’m sorry, I’m not buying it.”
You don’t have to. There are no ties. Go yell at the NFL.
“Not only that: If you go to the overtime you get a point. If you win the game, you get a couple of points. I’m sorry, you want a cookie? Last time I checked, when you take to the ice, it’s to actually win. It’s not to tie. So I don’t get all of this stuff. Hockey’s clearly all about points, because if you go to overtime 20 times you get 20 points. I don’t understand that. You either win or you lose in sports.”
Here’s the part where we drop the snark and applaud S.A.S. for his indirect railing against the charity point. Imagine if ESPN had someone qualified to discuss issues like forced parity and playoff seeding inequity among its scream-a-ratti? Rather than, “Man I hate ties because soccer, that’s why.”
You know, the multi-billion industry that ESPN is desperately attempting to corner the market on for American television?
“When the Stanley Cup champion is crowned, is it because of a tie? No, it’s because of a win.”
If only someone, somewhere at some point had said the Stanley Cup Playoffs are vastly superior to the regular season for that very reason …
ESPN television bloviators talking about hockey is like your mom watching “Community” and complaining that the “stories don’t make sense.”
Please, no more of this Stephen A. Smith on the NHL. Give us Wilbon or Kornheiser. As least they knew how to fake it better when writing columns about the Capitals back in their ink-stained days with the Post.
(By the way: Sara Walsh, S.A.S.'s handler in the clip above, covered the Capitals while in D.C. and didn't feel the need to correct him on ties. Et tu?)
Here’s more from Sports Media Watch on SportsCenter hitting rock bottom.