Something interesting happened in the game between the New York Rangers and the Anaheim Ducks tonight. A goal was awarded to the Rangers in the final second of the game even though the puck did not cross the goal line! Now before I explain how that can happen, I am unaware of this possibility in football or baseball. Even if a wide receiver is interfered with in the end zone, the consequence is simply a pass interference penalty that puts the ball at the goal line. In baseball, the closest thing might be a balk with the bases loaded that forces in a run without the benefit of any doing by the offensive team. However, in basketball, there does exist instances in which a basket is counted even when it has not gone into the net… which is called goaltending.
So, what happened in the Rangers-Ducks game to warrant a goalless goal? Nikolai Zherdev was on a breakaway towards an empty net when he was tripped up by Chris Pronger. In normal situations, Zherdev would be awarded a penalty shot. However, a penalty shot in this situation would be unfair to the Rangers. The official NHL rule book actually addresses this situation:
26.1 Awarded Goal – A goal will be awarded to the attacking team when the opposing team has taken their goalkeeper off the ice and an attacking player has possession and control of the puck in the neutral or attacking zone on, without a defending player between himself and the opposing goal, and he is prevented from scoring as a result of an infraction committed by the defending team (see 26.3 Infractions –When Goalkeeper is Off the Ice, below).
That’s awesome. I actually would’ve preferred a penalty shot on an empty net to formalize the goal. I equate that to an intentional walk in baseball in which the pitcher still has to throw four balls wide of home plate to formalize the bases on balls.
If you do a search on Awarded Goal in the NHL rulebook, there are actually several instances in which a goalless goal may occur. Most, if not all, occur when the goalie is removed for an extra attacker. My favorite one is Rule 67.5. To summarize, if the goalie builds a snowman in front of the net before he leaves the ice for an extra attacker, the opposing team is awarded a goal. Hahahaha!
Baseball is not a sport built for parity. It is not like the NFL where parity in a 16-game season promotes excitement and competition. It’s not like the NFL where each team has a strong base of hardcore fans and where most fans are fans of watching football as a sport. Football is more exciting to watch than baseball. The biggest complaint from casual sports fans about watching baseball is that it’s boring. This is apparent when we look at the popularity of college football versus that of college baseball or even the MLB minor leagues. Baseball’s lengthy 162-game season and similarly lengthy best-of five or seven game playoffs series are not conducive to small market teams like the Tampa Rays and Florida Marlins capturing the attention and excitement of casual fans around the country.
Penalty in football - horse-collar tackle
The drama of baseball takes too long to unfold in this day and age of “keep me interested right now” mentality. Baseball is about rivalries and story lines and history. It is about statistics and tradition. It can be agonizingly slow and frustrating. It’s not like football where all it takes is three hours to resolve the pent up competitive juices. Words you hear about in football are war, in the trenches, cold, frozen tundra, swirling winds, etc etc. Penalties include grabbing the facemask, unsportsmanlike conduct, taunting and horse-collar tackles. Imagine if any of those words are ever used near baseball.Baseball is too slow for this new era of extreme sports. This is why mixed martial arts is gaining popularity over its more traditional and more boring sport, boxing. Since when is boxing considered boring? This is why a sport like soccer continues to have difficulty gaining popularity in America. The sport takes too long to achieve satisfaction. Even a violent sport like hockey has had to transform itself after a period of low scoring games due to the NJ Devils’ inspired zone trap defense. The game now requires faster, younger athletes with more room to show their speed and skills. It was a matter of survival for the NHL, and baseball might be headed that way as well.
MLB Commish - Bud Selig
To make matters worse, two factors have had very negative effects on baseball. The steroid era has pushed baseball into a precipitice decline in popularity. The skepticism surrounding the genuity of sacred baseball records being broken during the steroid era has removed two of the main attractions I mentioned earlier, history and statistics. It has removed the excitement of slow journeys toward hallowed records and the respect given to such players. Remember the awe and respect of Cal Ripken when he broke Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games streak or when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa battled to break Roger Maris’ single season home run record. Of course, the second record is now seen with skepticism and is considered one of the defining moments of the steroid era. The fact that players have seemed unwilling to address the problem of the past ten years is disturbing. The feeling that the players rather protect their cheating teammates than the integrity of the sport leaves many traditional baseball fans disgusted. The second factor is directly related to the steroid era. Bud Selig, the baseball commissioner, has been a complete travesty to baseball. Although he is good for the owners, fans see him as boring, slow, biased and ineffective. He continues to brush over the steroid era and had to be fully pushed by even Congress before taking action. His decision to leave the All-Star Game a tie was horrible. And although his decision to add interleague play initially seemed a huge success, it has proven to be a hassle and distraction to fans. He seems unwilling to confront the problems of baseball and his biased views are shown in a somewhat condescending tone when pushed by the media or fans.
So what is baseball to do? For one thing, it needs a new commissioner. One that is younger and understands that baseball requires changes that appeal to younger fans but keeps the traditionalists happy. One that realizes that the steroid era can potentially destroy baseball forever unless a level of happiness is reached among all groups involved, including but not limited to owners, players, former players, Congress, traditionalists and new generation of fans. However, there are things about baseball that are at the roots of its tradition and changing them would prove good and bad. The Rays-Phillies World Series was a disaster. Television ratings have never been lower. However, baseball cannot change the playoffs to one game takes all because the lengthy journey of 162 games culminating in one 9-inning game seems unfair. Although why not? I bet if the World Series was one game, more people would definitely tune in to see who wins. If I’m a Yankees fan, why would I tune in to a best of seven between the Rays and Phillies? Especially when football is on or I can watch DVDs or do something else. However, if it was a 3 hour event, like the Super Bowl, I’d be willing to watch it and even make a social event out of it. Baseball has to be willing to face the problem of why it is declining in popularity. It has to be open to innovation and the possibility of changing tradition for the better of the sport. It has to also lean on the teams that make it a popular sport, like the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and Cardinals. Just like the NBA, which always does much better when popular teams like the Knicks and Celtics do well. With the Knicks in a multi-year doom and gloom, NBA has lost a lot of its luster.
Kids and video games
However, I believe it will be difficult for baseball to regain its name as America’s pastime. It’s a sport that has lost its appeal, most likely for good. Children have more interest playing football, basketball and even soccer than baseball. Inner city kids almost exclusively play basketball now. Nowhere is stickball or other variants of baseball being played in city streets and playgrounds. Additionally, there are too many other things to keep kids occupied nowadays. Video games, internet and hi-def television are far more intriguing options than watching baseball or even rounding up atleast 10 of his or her friends to play a game.
There should be no ties in football. Although it has only happened 17 times since the 1974 Overtime Period Rule, when it does happen, there’s a feeling of, “Why did I waste the past 3 hours watching or playing this game!” Imagine paying over $100+ to watch a tie? The NHL has removed ties as a possible outcome and the shootout period is now one of the most exciting sports events. The NFL needs to do something similar and at least get rid of ties. PLEASE!!!
-Concerned fans and oblivious football players (like Donovan McNabb)
Today brought shocking news to hockey fans all over the world. The news was especially shocking to New York Rangers fans and Avangard Omsk fans. The bright and unlimited ceiling of 19-year old Omsk player and top Rangers prospect, Alexei Cherepanov, was quickly wiped out today. In the middle of a game, Cherepanov collapsed on the bench. Medical personnel were unable to restart his heart. He was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at the hospital. The cause of the collapse is still unclear. Rumors of an accidental elbow to his chest during a collision with teammate Jaromir Jagr have been circulating.
The Late Alexei Cherepanov
As a Rangers fan since the late 1980s, the past few years have finally brought happiness and hope to Rangers fans for the first time since the 1994 Stanley Cup season. Besides their recent playoff success, the excitement of up and coming young players from Hartford and the junior leagues has kept fans excited about the future of the team. Since their 1994 Stanley Cup, the Rangers have had very limited success in the playoffs and having high-ceiling prospects pan out (Remember Pavel Brendl, Jamie Lundmark, and Manny Malhotra?) However, it wasn’t until the pick of Cherepanov by the Rangers in the 2007 NHL draft has a player caused so much excitement for the fans. Would Rangers fans finally be treated to a player on the level of an Ovechkin, Malkin, or a young Bure? Cherepanov had only dropped to the Rangers at the 17th spot because of the lack of clarity on the expiring transfer agreement between the Russian leagues and the NHL. On talent alone, Cherepanov was easily a top 5 pick, with a potential ceiling higher than most of the other picks. He shows finesse and speed in his skating, skill in scoring and passing and has the potential to be the complete all-around player. He continued showing those skills by besting season points of now-NHL stars Evgeni Malkin, Alexander Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk in their first seasons in the Russian Super League. He also surpassed the Russian league rookie goal scoring record previously held by Pavel Bure (17 goals).
Cherepanov had been off to another great start this year, recording 7 goals and 5 assists in 14 games for Omsk. Rangers fans were very hopeful that this would have been his last year in Russia as his contract with Omsk expires. The thought that he could be plugged into the Rangers new high-powered offense was scintillating.
With the Rangers looking good at 4-0 this year, and many new faces contributing, this news is very difficult to digest. The addition that the player that accidentally collided with him was Jagr makes it even more difficult to swallow. In a way it’s better he passed away in the game he loved rather than for any other reason.
Condolences go out to the Cherepanov family, the Omsk family, Russian hockey fans, the Rangers family, and all hockey fans around the world…