So the NHL Winter Classic between the Penguins and Buffalo Sabres was a rousing success, right? Merchandise sales with everything reading "Winter Classic" have been through the roof. TV ratings were higher for this game than any of the Stanley Cup final games from last year. Every NHL franchise north of the Mason-Dixon line have lobbied to be the next team to play in the snow. And despite some of the weather issues, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who would've called the New Year's Day game "a failure."
Enter Mike Tirico and his Dan Patrick-esque soapbox. Tirico came on to ESPN Radio days following the classic, and toed the ESPN company line of "since we no longer have a contract with the NHL, everything it does is a failure." Tirico pointed out the delays due to the snow build-up, and questioned the scheduling of the event.
How DARE the NHL pit this game against all those exciting New Year's Day bowl games?!?! I mean...that Rose Bowl matchup between Illinois and USC was exhilarating! All 4+ hours! The Cotton Bowl between Arkansas and Missouri was a real doozy. And that Sugar Bowl matchup between Hawaii's high octane offense and the big bad Georgia Bulldogs from the big bad SEC?! I almost pissed myself in anticipation of that game.
(OK, the Florida / Michigan game was worth some thrills...1 outta 4 ain't bad).
Admittedly, some of the delays to repair the ice were a buzzkill to an otherwise exciting game played in a beautiful setting. But criticism about delays in a sporting event from a guy who does play-by-play for NFL games sounds a tad ridiculous, if not completely moronic. You could do 2 laps around a rink in a zamboni within the same time frame it takes between a touchdown and the opposing team's next play from scrimmage. You can DVR an NFL game, and be over and done with all the "action" in about 20 minutes. At least the 60 (sometimes more) minutes of "action" in an NHL game is just that...action.
*** Note to self: DVR the Superbowl ***
The NFL has its own built-in delays, yet Tirico doesn't seem to question these because they pay the bills. At least NBC had the gumption to stay on-air for most of these delays, and attempted to fill them with banter between the on-air talent, rather than use them for another excuse to run commercials.
Fact is, ESPN needs to lose their self proclaimed "Worldwide Leader in Sports" tag. You're more like, "Worldwide Leader in Sports We Cover." Or better yet: "Worldwide Leader in Overhyping Sports We Cover." If it's not the NFL, NBA, MLB, or NASCAR...it's crap according to ESPN. The world's most popular sport, like it or not, is soccer. Yet you'll barely get a mention of it on Sportscenter, unless it's conveniently packaged into the ESPN Deportes segment.
The constant bashing of the NHL by Tirico and every other ESPN personality (sans Barry Melrose) not only comes off as childish and trite, but seriously questions the journalistic integrity of the entire network. Mr.Tirico...the time has come to get your head out of your Ass (Hat). Until then, the NHL doesn't need you or your bullshit network.