An Open Letter to All You Young Blackhawks Fans Out There

An Open Letter to All You Young Blackhawks Fans Out There

Yes, I used an Eddie Olczyk catch phrase for the title of this letter: don’t let that deter you. The Eddie O you know now is very different from the Eddie O I first knew. The now-redundant color commentator was just an aging veteran making his triumphant return to his hometown back in the late 90’s as I, myself, was solidifying my appreciation for the red-headed stepchild of sports franchises here in Chicago.

That’s right, your superstar Blackhawks were the team everyone in this hockey-loving town forgot about. This is no secret. Anyone that labels him or herself a ‘true Blackhawks fan’ is the first to point to this period of time as proof of their undying loyalty.

“Back when I was your age the Blackhawks sucked and weren’t even on television. We went to Wolves games to see real hockey.”

I admit, that sentiment has come out of my mouth on more than a few occasions- because it was true. While I loved the Blackhawks as a child, my main motivation for attending games was solely to scam my father into buying me some cotton candy and watch grown men fight (legally) on the ice like my schoolyard friends at recess. My dad loved it because he could see an NHL game for less than $10 a ticket. I would then go home to my desktop PC and waste away hours playing Eric Daze on my first line on NHL 2003. Yes, Eric Daze was my Patrick Kane and you’ve probably never heard of him. He did win the All-Star Game MVP in 2002, just so you know.

This letter was sparked by a conversation I had where a coworker of mine said following the Blackhawks has lost its luster because they just always win. They are predictable. I gaped at him. How could someone be bored with these Blackhawks? If I could find ways to be entertained in the late 90s with THOSE teams, surely you can find things to get excited about with THESE teams. It got me thinking more, however, about the young fans that are growing up and viewing the Hawks in their present state. What must that be like? Oh yeah…

There was something else going on in the mid to late 90’s that took up the majority of this town’s attention, in the same building, in fact: the Chicago Bulls and the Jordan Era. I grew up and developed my sports acumen during the prime of the greatest athlete to ever play the game of basketball. When I was really little, maybe about five or six, I actually thought the ‘B’ in NBA stood for Bulls. I thought it was their league and the other teams competed to play them in the championship. How was I to know any different? They were in it almost every season. The one season they didn’t win, I was living in California that year and actually thought it was my fault for moving away. I always had a great sense of responsibility when it came to sports, I guess.

I’ll admit, I took these years with MJ for granted. I didn’t understand half of what I was witnessing. But one thing I never was: bored. I begged my dad for every championship t-shirt, watched every game right alongside him and whoever happened to be over doing the same. I drew the Bulls logo in my art class over and over and over. I once won a pair of Bulls tickets at a church raffle and gave them to my dad for Father’s Day. He took my uncle. That remains one of the single most devastating things to happen to me in my childhood.

The point of this is: I understand. I understand you may not comprehend this ‘Golden Age’ of the Blackhawks right now. I understand you have no concept of how hard it is to win year after year in the Salary Cap Era of the NHL. I know you don’t get the fact that Coach Quenneville is now sitting as the 2nd All-Time Winningest Coach in NHL history and how big of a deal that is.

But even if you don’t understand I hope you get excited watching every Seabrook slap shot from the blue line; every impossible dangle by Kane and every laser snipe by Panarin. I hope that if you happen to get the chance to go to a game you don’t sit in your $220 lower bowl seat playing Candy Crush on your iPhone. I hope you get a set of Blackhawks shinny hockey sticks for Christmas and play until you have rugburns on your knees in the basement or better yet: build your own mini ice hockey rink in your backyard.

And I hope you never, ever get bored.

Signed,

GWASP

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Traded, you are: Is the Dwight Howard Saga finally over?

According to ‘sources’ on ESPN.com a four-team trade deal is in place that will send Dwight Howard to none other than the Los Angeles Lakers.

In the deal, Howard will go to the Lakers, Andre Iguodala will go to the Denver Nuggets, the Philadelphia 76ers will receive Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson and finally the Orlando Magic will acquire Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington,Nikola Vucevic and Moe Harkless along with ‘protected’ first round picks from each of the three other teams. Um. Exqueeze me? The Magic will get 671417 (a.k.a three in addition to their own) first round picks over the next couple of years is what you’re telling me? Is that even legal? Talk about complex. Next time a man gives me flack about women being complicated I’m just gonna pull up the Laker roster and point at Dwight Howard.

Is it me, or was this completely anti-climactic? Anyone else want to see Howard have to stay in Orlando and begrudgingly play out the season before becoming a free agent? I didn’t not want to see that, I can tell you that much.

So the story is over? Ha, if only. Allow me to venture the next chapter in the saga… the debate. You’ve got Kobe, Nash and Howard- the latter two trapped in their own version of Lord of the Rings trying to capture that first ring to no avail so far, making up the new Big Three in LA. Then, you’ve got LBJ, DWade, Bosheraptor and Jesus Shuttlesworth himself becoming the Big Four in Miami. Just resign yourselves to the fact the NBA championship will be the Lakers and the Heat in the Finals this year… and the next… and probably the next after that.

Now Howard has said already that if he were traded to the Lakers he would sign a long-term deal. He is still ultimately a free-agent after this season. He did have an interest in going to the Dallas Mavericks, and according to the article on ESPN the Mavs are waiting on him. But you have to think after playing with Kobe and Nash, nothing else is going to compare. At the end of the day, while Howard wants that money- I think he wants those rings more.

I now have to wonder if this is ultimately good for the league? If this predictability will hurt ratings and revenue? Granted, growing up I thought the B in NBA stood for Bulls because I thought it was their league and the Finals were made up of teams competing to play them. Come to think of it, that wasn’t really that far off base. I loved that era. It’s still talked about today as not only the Bulls’ golden years, but the league’s as well. That’s how I viewed it anyway. But now that the tables are turned and two teams who aren’t my home town team are the new age dynasties, I’m starting to understand how Celtics fans must have felt.

What Happened to the Nice Guys?

After my latest post about the Miami Heat winning the NBA Championship I was having a conversation with my father and we honed in on one particular subject: dynasties. His argument was that dynasties are a thing of the past, they don’t exist anymore for one simple yet powerful reason: money.

I have to say I see his point. Players these days go where the money takes them. As if the contracts themselves aren’t big enough, some of them have even been smart enough to realize while they can sign big time deals to play the sport they love, they can sign even bigger deals in endorsements. Endorsement deals are where the big money hides. A player could make $15 million/year playing but conceivably make $150 million in endorsement/advertising deals

That is just plain insane.

This realization prompted me to ask my father what Jordan made as far as his NBA salary went. His response? Enough. Huh? You mean Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest player to ever play the game, made… enough?

His Airness was the original one to be smart enough to realize opportunities outside of his playing career. He was a pioneer who paved the way for modern day player endorsements and he is still reaping the benefits. But it’s gotten out of hand- because major professional sports contracts have gotten outta hand, especially in the NBA and NFL.

Where did this ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ (not Kardashians) mentality within the professional community come from? Well John Wall is making this much and Kobe is making this much, so I should be making this much. Or I’m the franchise quarterback- pay me and kick that no name dude off the team #Kanyeshrug.

Shouldn’t the fact that these players CAN make up so much money in endorsements afford them the opportunity to stay where they are for lesser pay and betterment of the overall team? Therefore, making dynasties more prominent and likely? Have these players become so greedy that the game really is all about the benjamins for them?

From a PR standpoint- taking a pay cut to remain with your team is solid gold. It would go SO far with regards to loyalty, reputation and overall likeability. So much so that endorsement deals would come flooding in. Everyone wants the nice guy because in theory, the nice guy doesn’t exist. I don’t gotta tell my lady readers twice.

I’ll give you an example: Peyton Manning. Who doesn’t like Peyton Manning? He’s taken on this nice guy persona quite well. Here’s a guy who once offered to cut his own salary in order to better the overall team. A guy who still writes handwritten notes to the legends of the game thanking them for their contributions to the sport he loves so dearly. Now think of Peyton Manning’s endorsements… See my point?

But Manning is rare. Too rare. What happened to the nice guys? Are they all weeded out by the combine? Or does it start earlier than that? In college, perhaps?

Want my advice athletes? You get the opportunity to stay with the team who has molded you, who’s fans adore you, who has given you the support you need and paid you all they can afford- you take it. Make up the money with the hoards of endorsements thrown your way, and trust me there will be hoards. Be the nice guy. The game needs it.

The Time I Was at the Bar as Miami Won the Championship and No One Cheered

The End.

Just kidding. I was trying to decide what angle to take writing about the Miami Heat winning- no, winning’s not the right word- demanding the NBA championship. That wasn’t just a win that was, as LeBron put it, an “ABOUT DAMN TIME.”

I believe part of loving the game and being a good sports fan is knowing when to concede your opinion for the purposes of giving respect, which is what I’m going to do. As much as I didn’t want to see LeBron get that ‘elusive ring’ (who is he, Frodo?), I can’t deny that he, and the Miami Heat deserved it after that performance. I mean, that was ridiculous. LeBron averaged 30 points in the playoffs. He single handedly gave the Miami Heat their legs against Boston by scoring 45. I don’t necessarily agree he deserved league MVP, but he absolutely deserved Finals/Postseason MVP.

However, he is still far from ‘shutting all his haters up.’ Just because he won one championship doesn’t make him the greatest to ever play the game. His legacy has yet to be determined. I believe his most crucial year now is next season. How he responds to his first championship will be what makes or breaks his position as one of the greatest athletes to ever play the game.

I hate the comparison of him to Jordan. Oh well LeBron won his first championship at a younger age. Yes, but LeBron went straight into the NBA instead of going to college, therefore was in the league longer than Jordan before he won his first. Jordan won all of his championships with the team that drafted him, he didn’t need to change teams. Yes, but Jordan had a support system of Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman most years, LeBron needed to leave in order to get that same support system in D Wade and the Dinosaur. For every conditional for Jordan, there’s another for LeBron. There are so many reasons Jordan was special. A fair comparison can never be made. Period. Unless of course Jordan comes out of retirement… *crosses fingers*?

As for the Thunder, as I said in my post when they first made the Finals, there is no way there isn’t a dynasty budding there. They are led by three guys ages 23, 23 and 22. They will be a force to be reckoned with again next year and I quite frankly am not looking forward to my Bulls meeting them in the Finals… ya see what I did there?

Congratulations to the Miami Heat, you won it fair and square.

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