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Wings and a prayer

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff May 22, 2008 08:35 AM

In case you havenít noticed, we tend to thump our collective chests around here a bit.

Two World Series titles in four years and three Super Bowl trophies in seven will tend to do that, along with welcoming the onslaught of the insufferable booster that now sadly, accurately or not, defines the Boston sports fan.

Still, to live in Detroit right now has to be something special. Except for, you know, actually living in Detroit.

Sports fans in Motown have to be agog over what theyíve got brewing right now. Both the Red Wings and Pistons are vying for titles in their respective sports, going head-to-head on the tube Saturday night when the Wings host the Penguins in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals, and the Pistons welcome the Celtics in Game 3 of their playoff series.

It's so much, so good for the city that folks don't know whether to do a jig or summon that time-honored tradition of their Boston rivals and whine about it. We'll bite. The Stanley Cup finals and NBA playoffs in the same city, on at the same time?

Were this us, there would now be 8,000,000 angry voice mails left for the head honchos at ESPN, the NBA, the NHL, and Versus, your local representative, the Big Show Whiner Line, and the DVR repairman, the majority of the "how dare you" variety. Imagine waiting years, decades, for the Bruins and Celtics to both be in this exact situation only to discover that you've got to choose one or the other to devote your fanatical attention. It's TV's sports world, they just allow you and I to live in it. And frankly, don't you need 30 minutes of quality time with Stuart Scott tonight in lieu of an extra half-hour of sleep?

Bob Wojnowski picks up the slack in the Detroit News:

Whom do we blame for this? I'm looking at NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. The NBA schedule was set before the Wings ousted Dallas, so why couldn't Bettman avoid a conflict in a vital TV market? He says he couldn't, that the NHL had contractual obligations and the schedule basically was set a year ago. I'm amazed the league didn't have more flexibility and creativity to get it done.

It's not just Saturday, either, as Games 2 and 3 of the Wings-Penguins series will be played at the same TV times as Games 4 and 5 of the Celtics-Pistons series. This brilliant marketing for a sport that isn't exactly at the forefront of the American's sporting mind. The NHL claims though that it has obligations to fulfill, i.e., the 11 people watching locally on Comcast's lame former outdoor network.

ESPN's Eric Adelson writes:

Here's the biggest tragedy: The Stanley Cup finals may be more exciting than the NBA's Eastern Conference finals. Apologies to everyone at the Palace -- Where Sheed Happens! -- but the defense-first Pistons and Celtics will not light up the scoreboard the way Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk can. This is a golden chance for new fans to switch over to Versus on a holiday weekend and be smitten by a great sports product. But now, why bother? The NBA is on. And some of the most likely people to choose hockey over basketball -- Detroiters -- have a good reason to keep the remote on the coffee table.

It begs the fascinating question of which game would draw better ratings in a similar situation here. Based on the numbers from their thrilling seven-game series against the Canadiens, the Bruins' ability to compete on a level with the Celtics might surprise you. It's been 22 years for the basketball team, 36 for the hockey team. While the basketball team is more flashy and easier for the bandwagoneers to attach themselves to, the hockey team has perhaps the most solid core fan base of any local team. I mean, heck, it's not even a reality and I'm sitting here stressing about which one I'd be more focused on this weekend.

Both the Pistons ('04) and Red Wings ('02) have won titles this decade, but are aiming to become the first NBA/NHL pair to win in the same year. Remarkably, it's never been done. The closest Boston came was during the late '80s when the Celtics were winning titles and the Bruins were coming up just short. More recently, of course, we've had the Patriots and Red Sox riding on duck boats within months of each other. Imagine the very realistic trifecta that could have been Patriots-Celtics-Red Sox. Que sera.

A similar scenario remains alive in Detroit, where don't forget, the heavily-favored Tigers are still waddling their way through the early portion of the baseball season in between the fantastic rants of one Jim Leyland. And if the NFL changes its rules anytime soon to allow only wide receivers to punt, pass, kick, and throw, then hey, the Lions have as good a shot as anyone.

Not that New Englanders, or the rest of the country for that matter, is going to spend the next fortnight rooting for the city of Detroit. Granted, in a country plagued with its share of economic problems (gas cards and cash for Father's Day, please), Detroit has fared worse than many other cities, and this little matter of dual rooting interests can tend to take away some of that bleak focus. So, that's nice. But Pittsburgh ain't exactly building diamond-encrusted high-rises these days either.

That reminds us, if the Penguins win the Stanley Cup, Pittsburgh will have two titles to its name over the past three years (Steelers, 2006), a better ratio than we have currently have here in Boston over that same period. Well, there goes that title town label, straight to Mercury Morris's Perfectville BBQ.

But with the Celtics' inability to lose at home, the Red Sox rolling in the AL East, and the Patriots' revenge tour set to hit stadiums later this year, this town may yet rise again.

As for the Bruins, well, you might want to catch Marian Hossa in this series, and hope they make a run for the free agent this summer.

Too bad you'll be watching hoops instead.

6 comments so far...
  1. Good read. I would be watching the Bruins personally. It is the Stanley Cup and 36 years is a loooong time. I should know I am a Miami Dolphin fan (thanks for giving props to the mad mic man Mercury). Here's hoping Hossa can be a reality. Bruins have been stagnant offensively for way too long. With Savard and Hossa, the future just got brighter.

    Posted by The Kid May 22, 08 11:48 AM
  1. Detriot's hockey and basketball teams do not play in the same arena. So in a non-perfect world, they can both play at the same time. Of course in Boston, this scenario would be an issue. Then Mr. Bettman would have to think about changing his game time.

    Posted by Dogg May 22, 08 12:29 PM
  1. I have two TV's in my TV room for just such an occasion.

    Posted by J-Bone May 22, 08 12:59 PM
  1. thanks for a good laugh. :)

    I'll be forwarding this link to a friend out in Detroit that, until he saw both games scheduled for the same time, had been lamenting trying to figure out how to pay for tickets to both games. now he's trying to figure out which building has better wireless service so he can get in-game updates on the other event.

    Posted by K May 22, 08 01:35 PM
  1. That must be why there are still seats available for games 3 and 4 of the ECF in Detroit.

    Posted by Kevin Lynch May 22, 08 04:00 PM
  1. You think its bad that there's still tickets to games 3 and 4 of the ECF? I've been able to buy tickets on game day to the 3 postseason Wings games I've gone to this year, and the Joe wasn't full then. I'm curious to see how empty it'll be on Saturday. That being said, I won't be there to see it first hand, because I'll be at the Palace.

    On one hand, I want to punch Bettman in the face for being a moron and not realizing that he probably just cut his market for the Stanley Cup Finals down by at least 50%. On the other hand, I suppose I should thank him....now I don't have to spend $500 on tickets to two Wings games as well as $500 on tickets to two Pistons games.....my wallet appreciates Bettman's stupidity, even though I don't.....

    Posted by naskie18 May 22, 08 07:02 PM
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