Stomach-punch losses

One of the reasons Bill Simmons is so successful as a sportswriter is his ability to wrap the fan perspective into all of his writing. He’s not an “objective” journalist. He doesn’t hide his emotions, and he pours his heart out when his team loses.

He’s also funny as hell, and mixes in pop culture references better than anybody in sports media.

His latest column is a classic, as he recounts his young daughter’s love for the Los Angeles Kings, and how she experienced her first “stomach-punch loss” recently when the Kings couldn’t close out the Devils in Game 5 last Wednesday.

So Wednesday’s game … man.

I tried to warn her. I tried to prepare her: “Look, this is sports, you never know, you can’t just assume they’re going to win.” She wouldn’t hear it. She kept saying, “Dad, stop it, just stop. They’re going to win.” She had the whole night planned in her head, inadvertently jinxing it with questions like, “Who gets to hold the Cup first again?” and “How long will they pass it around?” She insisted on arriving 40 minutes early for warm-ups. On the way there, she leaned out her window and waved to anyone wearing a Kings jersey. We made it downtown and realized it had morphed into a sea of Kings jerseys — more than we had ever seen. She was delighted.

“Look at all the jerseys!!!!” she gushed. “Did the Lakers ever have this many?”

And I just watched the whole thing happen, unable to stop it, knowing the entire time, “Oh God, tonight’s probably the night … her first stomach-punch loss.”

The night ended with his daughter sobbing in their car on the ride home. After last nights loss in New Jersey, the pressure is suddenly on the Kings in game 6. Hopefully she and other Kings fans can celebrate a win that will feel even better after the disappointment of the last two games.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Last Cap Standing (Between the Pipes): Washington’s Playoff Dreams in Holtby’s Hands

To say that it’s been an interesting season for the Washington Capitals hockey club this year would be a drastic understatement. After coming out of the gates red hot, winning their first seven straight games, the Caps slowed down considerably shortly thereafter. They struggled with two, 4-game losing streaks in the month of November alone, firing head coach Bruce Boudreau during the tail end of the second of these. The remainder of the season was rather marginal, and void of any serious excitement, unless you consider disappointing performances by their top players riveting stuff. But lately, the end of the season has been a bit less dull, albeit in a still slightly unfavorable way.

Having just barely ousted the Buffalo Sabres for the final playoff spot with their victory against the Panthers, and subsequently taking the 7 seed out from under Ottawa, the Caps almost made it to the end of the regular season in relatively good health. That is until Michal Neuvirth went down with a leg injury just five minutes into the second period of the penultimate regular season game against Florida. The injury to Neuvirth came just one week after Tomas Vokoun reinjured his groin in the Caps March 29th game against the Buffalo Sabres.

Now, unless either Tomas Vokoun or Michal Neuvirth can find a bowflex treadclimber to hop on to help with a quick rehabilitation, it looks like rookie goaltender Braden Holtby will be carrying the team into the playoffs on his young shoulders this month. Holtby looked solid in the Caps 4-1 victory on Saturday night against the Eastern Conference’s No.1 seed NY Rangers, and the club looks for him to continue with that level of play in his first playoff appearance against the Boston Bruins later this month.

With a wild regular season now behind them, the Washington Capitals can at least breath a short sigh of relief. But with their top two goalies out and a rookie goaltender with 0 NHL playoff experience between the pipes, one can expect some more wild goings-on from the Washington Capitals in the near future. Heck, at this rate, I wouldn’t be surprised if they won it all.

Sports Illustrated lists its Top 20 all-time sportscasters

Sports Illustrated put out this list of what it believes to be the Top 20 all-time sportscasters. Some of these guys are before my time, but unfortunately, most of them are not. Anyway, here is the list and a snappy comment or two, as well as who they missed and who I’m glad is not on here:

1. Jim McKay—The Bob Costas of his time. McKay hosted ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” as well as The Olympics. It’s hard to argue with putting him on top here, but it’s also easy to argue for a few of these others to be #1.

2. Vin Scully—If I hear ol’ Vin doing a game on TV, and with the MLB package it’s nice to still hear him doing Dodgers’ games, I don’t care who is playing….I stop and watch, and listen. It’s just comforting to hear the guy’s voice, which was made for broadcasting baseball.

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Let’s watch the Stanley Cup Finals! Now who’s got a satellite dish?

Since moving to Los Angeles from Michigan, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to watch my Red Wings without buying a cable package I wouldn’t be using otherwise. As such, I’ve had to find all possible venues for watching hockey in downtown LA. BTW, to show some love, Far Bar in Little Tokyo totally hooked me up with Game 1 of the Cup Finals.

Even though it was only on NBC, it should be noted that my quest for comfortable settings for watching the Wings is not going to get any easier this week or even next season. Apparently, NBC bumped (to the Versus channel) the Stanley Cup Finals for every weeknight in order to maintain its week-long coverage of I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here! (A television program I’m sure we will be talking about for years to come) and the start of the new Conan O’Brien show. Back home, folks aren’t particularly happy about the move. Here’s what Michael Zuidema of The Grand Rapids Press had to say as posted on MLive:

Granted, hockey hasn’t consistently pulled the strongest ratings numbers throughout the years, but it doesn’t deserve to be treated like a second-class citizen or an afterthought. Not when you have a matchup pitting Hockeytown against hockey’s poster boy, Sidney Crosby.

The buzz already is there, build on it. Or is Conan O’Brien that much more important? (Never mind, we already know the answer.)

For all NBC does right with hockey — and its coverage of the Winter Classic stands out as a huge plus — the sport still doesn’t feel like a priority, even during the Winter Olympics.

And Versus may be fighting for its niche in the sports world, but it still isn’t a destination point for casual fans. It’s not even available in every home. Nonetheless, it will carry the NHL through the 2010-11 season.

I like Conan O’Brien, and people watch him more than hockey. I’m not debating the numbers here. Nor am I about to tell everyone in Los Angeles to start liking a sport they can’t actually play without all sorts of technology. I suppose what I would like to say, and this kind of echoes Mr. Zuidema, is that despite its relative lack of mainstream appeal, hockey is still one of the great sports in America. Where it’s popular, it’s VERY popular.

I wish there was some easier way to get around all this, some way to bring hockey back to a more profitable level in order to justify it preempting something else instead of vice versa, but there isn’t. Either you like hockey or you don’t. But come on, hockey is sweet. In that vein here’s another article to check out: 10 Reasons Why You Should Be A Hockey Fan.

NHL tries to woo fans by increasing scoring with bigger nets, 3-point line

Reason #1864 why I love The Onion.

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