Lots of links sent to the email basket this morning, with yet more stuff hanging over from the weekend:
Check out this goal from Francesco Totti, during Sunday's Serie A menu. Then go back and review the weekend Ronaldinho evidence (this time, with the commentary from GOLTV - just a warning, that). Totti vs Ronaldinho. Discuss (and thanks to Peter for the latter pointer).
Next, an eternal question: What's pro hockey gotten itself into now? Is it about skill, or is it about brawn? Regular J-Rich sends along a link to this Boston Globe piece from Kevin Paul Dupont that longs for the good old days of fights, intimidation and Freddy the Fog:
|TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO|
|The good old days.|
Note to NHL: Bring back the fighting, as fast as possible, I'm begging you.
In the spirit of full disclosure, it is without question that my sentiments are influenced by watching what most often has been an emotionally bankrupt Bruins team here in 2006-07. Even when there is the rare case of group indigestion along the boards, I have taken to murmuring in the press box, "Please, don't anyone get mad down there. Whatever you do, don't throw a punch! Gentlemen, above all -- manners."
Think anyone down here in the Lower 50 today would turn away from one of the buckets o'blood we witnessed in the early '70s? Can you imagine the ratings that something like the Bruins' first-round sweep of the Maple Leafs in 1969 -- Pat Quinn's likeness hanged from the second balcony after his hit on Bobby Orr -- would bring today? Absolute guarantee: that kind of NHL would not be on the Vs. network. No, sir. We'd be watching that kind of hockey strictly via pay-per-view. And the third period might cost more than the first.
So that's what the NHL needs to boost its invisible profile in the U.S. - more fights. There's something to what Dupont's arguing - most nights, blood and thunder have vanished from the NHL game (from everywhere but the highlights shows, as Chris Zelkovich points out). It's all surface, and no depth. And I confess, I like a good scrap as much as anyone - but it has to be one that happens because of that passion, and not as a substitute for it absence. There's a huge difference between a thumping bodycheck and a bench-clearing brawl as the ne plus ultra of the passion that's gone missing - or worse. The Flyers of that 'buckets o' blood' era were the end product of a hyper-expanded (NHL and WHA) hockey world that didn't have near the international talent pool to draw upon that it does now, and where deliberate intimidation became a strategy to make up for the diluted product. Go back there? No thanks.
But lest you think it's all a starless void in the U.S., there was this illuminating and very readable profile of the Capitals' brilliant young Alexander Ovechkin, in the Washington Post Magazine:
|PAUL CONNORS/ASSOCIATED PRESS|
|The good new days.|
On September 17, 1995, Alex turned 10. Two days later, his oldest brother, Sergei, 22, who'd been recuperating after a car accident, died suddenly of unforeseen complications. The next day, Alex's youth team was scheduled to play a game. "His brother wasn't even in the ground yet," the father recalled. "We decided he shouldn't skip the game. He played while tears were flowing down his cheeks. He cried the entire game, but he played. He wanted to play. We were obviously not thinking about hockey that day. I don't even know what the score was. We didn't really think of it as a lesson. We didn't want him to sit at home and dwell, and to cry and to poison himself with his thoughts."
To capture the hockey world's attention Alex had forsaken almost every soft distraction of youth. He had done nothing but play hockey. It was a price he was happy to pay, he said. Just being on the ice with his teammates was always, "sort of a high for me," he said through an interpreter. "It's like a child getting his most secret dream achieved. For example, if you always dreamed about a toy transformer robot and you finally get it. That's what I feel on the ice."
Scoring, of course, feels even better. "You can imagine a situation when you are running away from an angry dog," Alex explained. "You've got a bit of adrenaline in your blood, right? Combine that with a sense of accomplishment, and you've got a goal."
I'd love to excerpt more, but go and read it yourself. This is the sort of in-depth, extended feature coverage of the NHL that just isn't done that often anymore - here or in the U.S. Superb stuff.