Wednesday, 20 March 2013

5 Things I've Learned from NHL Centre Ice

In Renaissance England, civic pageants were used to create a sense of community and communal identity among inhabitants of a city. As historical documents, they offer a glimpse into how communities saw themselves and wanted themselves to be seen by others. Today, a close equivalent of such entertainment might be the regional NHL broadcast. I'll leave it to readers to determine what exactly we might glean from observations made while watching a number of broadcasts from different regions.

1. Fox Sports Southwest: this network covers NHL, NBA, MLB, NFL, NCAA, and probably other sports leagues that I've never even heard about. Their broadcast is most noteworthy for crimes against humanity. 

FSS has corralled a stable of itinerant groupies: women paid to be fan girls of various regional sports teams. While on location, they wear apparel for various regional teams and do adorably girly things like trying to play man sports while maintaining optimal levels of cleavage, being woefully inept at basic tasks, bizarrely overdressing for sporting events, and, of course, firing guns. They may also dabble in prostitution as the website offers fans a chance to interact with them via email. If that doesn’t seem sketchy enough, their next scheduled public appearance is “near the flagpole outside Dallas Hall.” Take THAT, feminism.

2. To offer a different side of the Fox Sports conglomerate, you only need to look westward to Fox Sports Arizona. For every commercial that objectifies women on FSS, there's an ad that lionizes Shane Doan on FSA. If the amount of time in which Doan appears in commercials were added to his TOI, he would be the first player in NHL history to register playing 2 hours per game. I'm not sure if the network pushes Doan to tape his comments on how players should treat the people handing them towels, or if Doan himself insists on controlling the state's airwaves. I'm tempted to say it's the latter based on this ad in which Doan takes deaths related to tobacco consumption personally on a megalomaniacal level: apparently Phoenix is unable to sell out its area and ensure the team's survival in the desert because of smokers.

3. Leafs TV: I should probably feel guilty for shamelessly enjoying the over-the-top glorification of past and present Leafs teams in the opening montage of Leafs TV broadcasts. But, as a fan, I rarely feel anything resembling joy regarding this team, so maybe I should be excused for savoring the high that this spectacular intro offers. My only complaint is that the network offers a poor follow-up (i.e. a Leafs game that typically ends either in a white-knuckled victory or a lopsided loss) to the magnificent pregame pageantry. 

4. Altitude Sports and Entertainment: home of the Colorado Avalanche, this network is perhaps the most idiosyncratic among those carrying NHL teams. That's not due to regional quirks (like broadcasts from Bahston that feature delightful calls like when Mahchand boahds a guy with fah minutes left in the thehrd), but the fact that commentators seem to have no grasp of reality. 

The Avalanche is a mediocre team in the opinion of most everyone outside of this station. Perhaps broadcast from a dystopian future, commentators talk up Avs players as though Big Brother were indeed watching them closely. One commentator in particular seems to think that Matt Duchene is the greatest specimen of human athleticism ever. Don't get me wrong: Matt Duchene is good, but he's not (contrary to ASE's portrayal of him) a divine scourge sent to castigate Western Conference teams like a Marlovian conqueror such as Tamburlaine the Great. Of course, commentators try to give other sides of Duchene--indeed, they try to give every side of him. The discussion of minute details of Duchene's every motion suggests that the commentators are narrating a David Attenborough documentary on #9 in his natural habitat. 

5. Fox Sports Tennessee: I'd like to end this blog with an endorsement. If anyone unfamiliar with hockey wants to learn the basics, he or she should watch Nashville Predators games on FST. The commentators offered detailed explanations (repeatedly throughout each game) of the fundamental rules of "ice hockey" (e.g. face offs, where players go during line changes, and why bad things like icing happen to good teams). The most furiously flowing moments of commentary happen not when there is a scrum in front of a net while the puck is loose but when the game requires overtime. 

Most commentators assume their audience is generally familiar with the rules, but the FST team feels that viewers will lose confidence in them if what they've learned from them about regulation play seems inconsistent with overtime rules. As a result, the dialogue becomes almost stream-of-consciousness as commentators desperately reassure their audience that what they said about the game before remains true except in the bizarro world that is the OT period. Rarely do they manage to make a full account of themselves and reconcile their past and present teachings in the five minutes or less before that section of the game ends.       

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