On Pink Hats and the Bandwagon

by Ryan

So I’ve been staring at this quote for the past hour.

Sid the Kid, the return of Don Cherry, the old Flyers uniforms, Montreal self-combusting, the four-OT game, Bucci and Barry, Chris Osgood clipping the dude with the butt of his stick, HD telecasts, a Wings-Pens Finals … I have to admit, I’m enjoying the NHL playoffs. No, really. I even figured out how to find the games on my cable system and everything.

Bill Simmons, 5/22/08

So… what does that even mean? I get it, the postseason has been interesting thus far, it always is; but to see that from a guy who disowned hockey a decade ago and only to brings it out to make fun of… what gives? When did hockey become watchable from the Sports Guy Mansion with J-Bug and Hench on the wings?

I’ve been working on a few theories over here. The first one is that he’s being genuine. Perhaps he is giving hockey a solid look for the first time because of that whole “Hey! The Bruins matter again!” thing and likes what he sees. Sure, the hockey hasn’t been fantastic, but when you train yourself to cast it aside as garbage how could he possibly expect better? Perhaps he is finally understanding that the NHL can’t live off the NBA model of strong personalities and that good, consistent teams with a likeable core are more important and fun to watch.

So yeah… there’s that.

Another possibility is that he’s full of crap and ESPN is forcing his hand. He has had some conflicts with The Four Letter recently, enough so that he has his own blogspot operational. Maybe mentioning the Don Cherry on Sportscenter gimmick is a way to mend fences. Heck, throw Bucci and Melrose in there, too!

We all know that this sudden hockey push is a test balloon for ESPN and the possibility of hockey returning, perhaps Simmons decided to help them out by throwing a major voice behind the game at juuuust the right time.

One other option, the one I’ve been weighing the longest, is that Simmons is simply an elitist. Bill started as just a sports fan, but moving out to LA and watching his hometown become the “City of Champions” has taken a toll on his everyman status. Suddenly he can pick and choose what he watches, he has a power over his audience to tell them what is watchable or like able.

He recommends books and people read them, tells them to follow a “Vengeance Scale” and people ask where their team’s performance ranks. Simmons has a strong voice and a strong following, and let’s face it, he’s a damn good writer. I know I’m not the only one that started in the Internet sports scene reading every word he wrote, even if it was about things I didn’t care about. Simmons can write a 30,000 word diatribe about the NBA and people that don’t know who CP3 is will read it. That’s the kind of power he has.

Because of this reach, he gets to pick and choose what he likes, even if it means throwing a team he loved as a child under the bus. For years all you would hear out of Simmons about hockey was how crappy the Bruins owner was, or that Joe Thornton is amazing and they got hosed in that trade. True as it was, it got old and he clearly didn’t know what was going on by his own doing. Once ESPN dropped hockey, it was open season to mock the game.

So my question remains, why the change? Maybe he’s for real, or maybe he just sees hockey moving towards relevance again and wants to be ahead of the curve. Regardless of the reason, it is good for the game that he is paying attention. Disgusting, filthy bandwagoner that he may be, for far too long hockey has gone without fringe fans. If it takes Simmons leading the charge of people who don’t know what a Blackhawk is, so be it.

Hey, at least he watches the draft.