Thursday, January 22, 2009

I Quit the All-Star Game

Hockey fans have gotten to the point where if someone asked us which we would rather watch: this weekend's NHL All-Star game or back-to-back viewings of ‘Requiem For a Dream’…it would be a toss up.

Both are equally scarring, un-enjoyable, and take days to forget.

I understand why the league does it: to thank their sponsors and to promote their star players. Both aspects are vital to any company’s survival and growth, so it’s not like the festivities are going away any time soon. But the entire event, the game, the skills competition, the introductions, the surrounding failed attempts at "hype", has all become intolerable.

I used to love the All-Star game. I remember really looking forward to it. I not only sat through those 11-5, 10-6, and 16-6 games in the early 90’s…I loved them. Seeing all the best players in hockey on the ice at the same time, Gretzky, Lemieux, Yzerman, was almost mind-boggling. Watching the way everyone interacted with one another, identifying which players were leaders, who the jokers were, and who had the hardest shot or best accuracy…these were intriguing storylines that made for compelling television. It was great entertainment and was eagerly anticipated from this corner.

But somehow over the last decade or so, everything changed.

When I look back now, I see three primary reasons why the All-Star game has gone (for me personally) from can’t miss to can’t watch.

1) We grow up. As kids we like the players, we have our favorites, we collect the hockey cards and we devote most of our attention to the biggest stars. As we get older, our fan maturity kicks-in and the priority changes from individual accomplishment to team success. (Or lack thereof in the case of Leaf fans.)

2) Intensity. It seems to be on an indefinite suspension (much like Sean Avery, only he has a better chance of returning). I think the lack of intensity is caused by the fact that salaries have increased so rapidly and to such a degree that players no longer, as a whole, have the collective passion their predecessors had and therefore treat exhibitions as true exhibitions. Make no mistake, even the now mailing-it-in actors Robert De Niro and Al Pacino put more effort into their performances than NHL All-Stars do.

3) Technology. With the number of local and national games that are televised, round-the-clock highlights, the plethora of information and video available on the internet, and the option of buying the NHL Center Ice package, fans today are more connected to the NHL than we’ve ever been. We can follow anyone and everyone as closely as we desire. Instead of catching glimpses of the best here and there and watching them congregate only once annually in the form of an All-Star game, we now see them nightly in double-headers, highlight packs, and fantasy recaps. The mystery that once surrounded players on teams outside our own division or conference has disappeared.

These three factors work together to create an All-Star weekend that features an incredibly lame skills competition (where players, if they agree to show-up, look bored, confused, or both) and a lifeless game of some sport that is indeed played on ice, but most assuredly is not NHL hockey.

This shouldn’t be misconstrued as a singular attack on the NHL. It’s more of a shot directed at all sports, because each of their so-called All-Star festivities are more Jared Leto than Jennifer Connelly. The Pro Bowl has never mattered, the NBA’s version faces many of the same problems that hockey’s does (no defence and a stale, unimaginative skills competition), and baseball’s game, while easily the closest to actual regular season quality, is reduced by the parade of pitchers and players that enter and exit seemingly by the moment, and the overwhelming boringness of the Home Run Derby. They all have issues that need to be addressed and corrected in order to make the events relevant and watchable for their fans.

Except the CFL, which actually has the best of the bunch.

Theirs doesn’t exist…


  1. I think you're mostly right, except I would put technology as the #1 reason. I remember faithfully watching all all-star games (well, not NFL) because it was the only time that I got to see many of the stars on tv. That was THE absolute top reason for watching them. It's just not like that any more. We get to see them in "real" games all the time, so why the heck would you watch the exhibition????

  2. CSJ,

    I can totally agree with you on the NHL, NFL (season over???), NBA all star events.
    However MLB all star games actually mean something and in recent years have been utterly amazing.
    I listend the all star game on the radio at my cottage with a peice of shit radio that i could only get reception if in the middle of the lake. I proceeded to float and drink for 4 hours and 50 minuitues until the middle of the night to hear this thing through. Epic game that i will never forget. i have a attached the recap below if you need to refresh your memory.

    It even had great Canadian content! Morneau scoring the winning run in a record setting game in Yankee stadium the year it fell.
    Seriously sports junkie. Josh Hamilton 28 homers??? This weekend was the sporting event of the year. Maybe the decade. Truly awesome. It even counts.

    Josh Hamilton didn’t win the Home Run Derby. Hamilton, however, did steal the show. The Texas Rangers outfielder hit 28 homers in the first round to set a new all-time record. Hamilton had a number of blasts over 500 feet that were just stunning to watch.

    If you are a baseball fan, you owe it to yourself to watch this epic Hamilton Home Run Derby video. Hamilton, who we named as the AL MVP at midseason, is just an amazing story. If you don’t know the Hamilton story, read our Josh Hamilton biography. He’s gone from out of baseball to arguably becoming the best hitter in baseball.


    Michael Young's sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 15th inning scored Justin Morneau with the winning run in the AL's 4-3 victory at Yankee Stadium. The 15 innings tied the 1967 Midsummer Classic for the most total frames, and the 4-hour, 50-minute affair stands as the longest game in All-Star history.

    The two teams combined for 27 hits (14 by the AL, 13 by the NL) and left an All-Star Game record 28 runners on base.

    With all 63 available players seeing action, All-Star Game MVP J.D. Drew might have taken the mound for the AL had the game gone later; David Wright was next in line for the NL.

    "It seemed like the Stadium didn't want it to end," said Derek Jeter, one of three Yankees representing the AL. "That's what we were talking about. It just wanted baseball to continue. I thought it was fitting. I wish, honestly, it would have ended earlier, but we won and it was a great game to watch and be a part of."

    "I thought I was going to have a day off; it didn't turn out that way," said NL manager Clint Hurdle. "I was doing Chinese arithmetic from the sixth inning on. I felt like I was in Algebra class. It got wild."

    The thrilling conclusion couldn't have come without the gifted right hand of Mariano Rivera -- it was where the final All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium belonged, where Francona wanted it, and almost as importantly, where the thousands filling the grandstands demanded it be.

    "When the game was tied, I knew I was pitching, regardless," Rivera said. "Yankee Stadium is tough. It was tough, I'm telling you. It didn't want the game to end, but it finally gave it up to us."

    The career Yankee entered a tie game with one out in the ninth to the strains of "Enter Sandman," satisfying the wishes of most of the crowd of 55,632. Rivera's work in the ninth was typically efficient, but he needed the help of his infield in the 10th, deftly scoring a 4-6-3 double play on a Dan Uggla chopper to preserve the tie.

    Kansas City's Joakim Soria recorded five outs that would prove just as important, and Baltimore's George Sherrill also logged seven outs -- including pinning the bases loaded in the 12th, a performance that Francona raved about later.

    "For him to do what he did with the enthusiasm, he wasn't coming out of that game," Francona said. "He didn't want to come out. And the way he pitched, he didn't deserve to come out."

    Uggla's remarkable troubles will be remembered as a footnote of the AL's 10th-inning near-miss. With Aaron Cook on in relief for the first of three dangerous innings, Young reached when a bouncer hit the Florida second baseman's glove and trickled away, and Carlos Quentin shot a hard liner through Uggla's legs for a second error.

    "My reputation is what it is -- one night is not going to change it," Uggla said. "It doesn't change the way I go about my game play. Someone else might want to say something about it, but I know what kind of player I am."

    After an intentional walk, Grady Sizemore and Evan Longoria both bounced out, and Cook got Morneau to ground out on a tantalizingly slow-hit ball. Nate McLouth's strong one-hop throw home on Young's 11th-inning single nailed Dioner Navarro and allowed the game to proceed deeper into the New York night, once again helping Cook evade trouble.

    "They just kept getting ground ball after ground ball," Young said. "A lot of it is because they went out and did a great job, so you have to give them some credit. We were fighting hard to get that thing wrapped up, but it happened to take a little longer."

    Matt Holliday belted a solo homer and Drew hit a two-run shot in the contest, and rookie Longoria came through with a clutch ground-rule double in the eighth, taking Jonathan Papelbon off the hook. With a full house chanting Rivera's name, his Boston closing counterpart permitted a go-ahead run in the eighth, further lowering his New York popularity rating.

    Miguel Tejada opened the eighth with a soft single to right, drawing boos. After a strikeout, Tejada stole second and moved to third on Navarro's throwing error, setting up Adrian Gonzalez's sacrifice fly to left field, briefly giving the National League the one-run advantage.

    The AL wasn't finished, evening the game in the bottom half against the Mets' Billy Wagner. Sizemore rapped a two-out single to right and stole second base before Longoria stroked a ground-rule double over the left-field wall, tying the game at 3.

    Holliday opened the scoring in the fifth, logging his first All-Star Game hit by reaching the Angels' Ervin Santana with his home run to right field. The NL added a run in the sixth on Justin Duchscherer, as Hanley Ramirez opened with a hit and moved to third on a single before Lance Berkman got the run home with a sacrifice fly.

    Trailing, 2-0, the AL evened the contest in the seventh, facing Edinson Volquez in his All-Star Game debut. Morneau opened with a double to center and moved up on a groundout. After a strikeout, Drew cracked his two-run homer in his first All-Star Game at-bat, tying the game en route to securing the game's MVP award.

    "I've always had confidence in [my] ability," Drew said. "It just took me a little while to put it together last year and get some experience in the American League. Like I've said all season, I felt like I had a really nice September and took it into the playoffs, and just wanted to bring it to this season.

    "It's been a nice little run. We still got a long ways to go, but this is definitely a good night."

    Appropriate for the festivities, Jeter -- one of three representing the Yankees -- found himself in a relatively big spot. The AL moved two runners on base against Arizona's Dan Haren, with Joe Mauer singling off the pitcher's glove and Dustin Pedroia working a walk.

    Ichiro fanned for the second out, but Jeter -- with cameras flickering throughout the stands -- tapped back to the mound. Jeter earlier singled and stole a base, exiting in the top of the fifth 1-for-3 and receiving a loud ovation. Alex Rodriguez, the Majors' leading vote-getter, finished 0-for-2.

    Both starting pitchers worked two innings, striking out three, as neither factored in the decision. The Indians' Cliff Lee allowed a hit, striking out three, and the Brewers' Ben Sheets also allowed a hit, walking two.

    It was a Midsummer Classic -- in every sense of the phrase -- taking place in a building best known for its immaculate stage.

    It was the House that Ruth Built, where Lou Gehrig proclaimed himself the luckiest man, where Joe DiMaggio jolted and where Mickey Mantle became an idol to millions. It was where Don Larsen was perfect, where Roger Maris toppled the Babe and where Reggie Jackson forever acquired October with just three swings.

    Major League Baseball's pregame on-field ceremony featured what was believed to be history's largest gathering of stars. Forty-nine Hall of Famers took part, spilling out of a red-curtained gateway and walking to their former positions, each wearing dark jackets and the caps of the franchise where they made their greatest marks toward Cooperstown.

    They were joined by the starters from both leagues; today's best players meeting the living legends. Yankees owner George Steinbrenner personally delivered the first-pitch ball to the mound, riding from the bullpen via golf cart.

    After receiving the handoff from Steinbrenner, who appeared to be crying, the ceremonial pitch was tossed by four Yankees Hall of Famers. Reggie Jackson threw to Rodriguez, Yogi Berra to Joe Girardi, Whitey Ford to Jeter and Goose Gossage to Rivera, as red, white and blue metallic streamers fell upon the outfield.

    "Being out on the field with all of the Hall of Famers is something you don't see that often," Jeter said. "I think that's what I'm going to remember most about this All-Star experience at Yankee Stadium, being able to share that."

    Tuesday marked the fourth and final time that Yankee Stadium hosted an All-Star Game, with Midsummer Classics also having been held in 1939, 1960 and 1977.

    It was the first time that a ballpark hosted an All-Star Game in its final year and the eighth All-Star Game to be held in New York; the Polo Grounds hosted the event in 1934 and 1942, Ebbets Field in 1949 and Shea Stadium in 1964. The 2009 All-Star Game is set to be held at St. Louis' Busch Stadium


  3. hey Jan22nd!!! i think its time for a new post CSJ!! how about one on the success of former raptors

    rager mason
    matt bonner
    tracey mcgrady
    vince carter
    tj ford?
    marcus camby
    damon stoudamire

    whoexactly did we get on the back end of those deals????
    the answer is not pretty


  4. If my memory serves correctly, the Raptors left town in December and are now playing out of Kalamazoo. Best of luck to them in their quest for the NBDL championship.

    Seriously though, after a month-long sabbatical the CSJ is back beginning in March. Look forward to your comments.