Robison: Streaks revive NBA, NHL
Matt Robison | Thursday, March 21, 2013
The year 2013 has already been the Year of the Streak. The Blackhawks started the NHL regular season with an unprecedented 24-game point streak. The Heat had a 23-game winning streak, the second-longest in NBA history. And in the shadow of Miami comfortably sit the Nuggets, who have won 13 straight.
If nothing else, what the streaks have done is stir interest in what can be the most boring part of sports – the middle of lengthy regular seasons. The 82-game NBA regular season is entirely too long. The NHL benefited from the lockout by having their regular season shortened from 82 to 48 games.
But finally, the regular season is bearable again. And with March Madness, arguably the most exciting stretch in sports underway, people actually have a reason to watch professional sports. LeBron and the Heat are making professional basketball a spectacle again. The Blackhawks stole the show when the NFL playoffs usually have every sports fan consumed. The effect the streak had on the public perception of the league cannot be overstated.
Most of the United States has a hard time getting back into hockey after the lockout. Even though the league has a presence in nontraditional hockey cities like Tampa, Fla., and Nashville, Tenn., the NHL has a hard time gaining fans during the grueling regular season.
But the streak drew attention from across the sporting world. LeBron and Patrick Kane went back and forth on Twitter. All of a sudden, Barry Melrose was ESPN’s most popular sports analyst.
When it comes to the NBA, the Heat are drawing comparisons to some of the best teams of all time: Jordan’s Bulls teams of the 90s, Wilt’s Lakers during the 70s. In an era when professional sports have lost a great deal of credibility – cheating scandals, steroids, ridiculous free agencies – the leagues are regaining the awe and admiration of the sports faithful.
The paradigm is shifting. People often looked to college athletics as the exemplar for everything that was good and pure in sports. That has broken down with recruiting scandals and eligibility questions. Then it was the Olympics. But doping and steroids ruined that, too.
But even with the scandals, the $100 million contracts and “The Decision,” professional sports are watchable again.
I am a confessed LeBron hater. I hate what he did to the city of Cleveland and the farce he created during his free agency. But watching him play the game is just too fun to avoid.
I’m not a Blackhawks fan, either. To be entirely honest, I hate that the Blackhawks are the only NHL team that consistently plays on television in our area. But they’re a fun team to watch because they did something no team in history has ever done.
In a way, I just don’t want to miss out on seeing history unfold before my eyes. In the future, when other teams approach the marks set so far in 2013, I’ll be able to remember watching those streaks unfold.
As I’m writing this column, the Heat are on the verge of the streak breaking. But even if it does, I’ll be glad I tuned in to watch the NBA player I hate more than anyone in the league. Not because I’m a fan of the Heat, but because I’m a fan of the game.
When the streak Heat is over, and the Nuggets’ streak as well, I can rest easy. Because as the Year of the Streak, I can already tell 2013 has plenty left to offer.
Contact Matt Robison at [email protected]
The views expressed in this Sports Authority are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.