Last week Scott Burnside and Damien Cox had another one of their regular “Even Stev(ph)en” columns for ESPN, and unlike the usual way we ignore them (seriously — ever since he wrote Marty’s “autobiography” for him, Cox has been an even bigger Devils apologist than we are, and Burnside is an ardent Devils-hater. Right there we know all we want to know about whatever dialogs they’re going to have: Cox is right and Burnside is wrong), we actually read this one. It was fairly benign nattering about the playoff races, with some boilerplate “these are the things that should be changed about the standings” crap, and it killed 45 seconds of downtime at work. We moved on, our worlds just as not-rocked as we expected them to be after reading the column.
Or so we thought. As it turns out, there was something to that column, a little kernel of annoyingness, that has been eating at us for days. We don’t have any problem with what they have to say about the teams involved, or even, really, with the suggestions they have for changing the playoff structure. No, what’s bugging us is this question from Cox:
“But couldn’t there be a way to introduce more drama to other parts of the standings in the final weeks?”
Is he kidding us? Seriously? We need to introduce more drama to playoff races? Come on. Isn’t that why we’ve been putting up with this asinine division-heavy schedule? Isn’t that why we’re all being hermetically sealed into our own divisions for the rest of the season, with league-approved blinders to block out any glimpse of teams on the outside, or, heaven forbid, the other conference? Isn’t that why we have the abomination that is the shootout “win”? How much more “drama” do we need?
We were working ourselves into a small tizzy about this, until suddenly we realized something: Burnside and Cox are hockey writers. Their job is to feed the 24/7 sports news beast. And unless the league is offering up a lot of drama that writes its own stories, that’s a job that requires a ton of work. Trust us — after a year of blogging, we’ve discovered that it’s not easy to think of new things to say every day, and we’re even willing to write posts about which fake mustache most suits which Devil, or what we think of the Acuvue flag-football commercial. We don’t want to sound here like we aren’t cognizant of the herculean labor that goes into finding interesting NHL news to write about. But you know what? The game isn’t here to make the sportswriters’ jobs easier. This is hardly a new and exciting complaint, and it’s certainly something we’ve dragged out before, but it just pisses us off to hear someone in the MSM whining about a lack of “drama”, because it seems like they’re talking about “drama” as an artificial construct. Why does every game have to be “huge”? How could that even happen? How can you make all 82 games on a team’s schedule “dramatic” without undermining the organic, genuine drama that’s part of the narrative of an entire season? How do you manufacture the races for all 16 playoff spots to be “dramatic” without watering down the drama of the situation altogether?
There are a lot of times when we read the work of veteran hockey writers and we really appreciate their take on a situation, or we find ourselves reconsidering our stance on a hot-button topic, or we just admire their writing. But there are just as many times when we wish they could remember that their audience exists because fans just love hockey. Obviously, everyone likes “drama”, but it shouldn’t be forgotten in the pursuit of “drama” that fans also just love the game; let the game speak for itself and drama will come.