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Many Americans like baseball. This cannot be because it is an exciting sport to watch, because it is not. It is slow-paced, even in the rare event of an exciting play, the play itself might last all of 45 seconds, followed by 5 minutes of no action, then a return to the dull routine. teams can go hours without any offensive activity, and only the most routine and basic defensive activity. Not even close to the excitement of our beloved hockey. yet baseball is the national passtime, and hockey is that often-mocked "violent" game from up north where its cold. A major reason for this, I beleive, is statistics.

Baseball is a game of statistics. you can interpret the entire game based on statistics. How skilled is a certain player, offensively? look at his stats. A baseball player, in general, is useless if he cannot make contact with the ball. So, look at the batting average, that will give you a pretty close idea of his skill. Is a pitcher effective on defense? look at his strikeouts, look at his ERA. Baseball is filled with countless statistics that Americans love to keep track of. These statistics are what keep Americans interested.

Hockey, on the other hand, is a game that CANNOT be interpreted entirely through statistics. It always makes me mad when people do. A forward is not just the number of goals he puts up, nor the number of points. He can protect the puck in the corners, he can set up plays, he can screen the goalie, he can pressure outlet passes to force turnovers. And then he can do the little things that don't come out in statistics. He can win the race to wash out the icing. He can backcheck well, he can be defensively responsible. Yashin was not just 50 points last season. Statistics would say he was 50 points, decent, but he was 50 points, no hustle, reluctance to finish checks, and incredibly weak in his defensive zone. A good defenseman can have a bad +/-, and a defensive defenseman will certainly have bad offensive stats. 3rd lines generally do not create a lot of points, but they provide energy, draw penalties, annoy the other team. These things cannot be analyzed purely by statistics.

Hockey is NOT a sport of statistics. Americans are obsessed with statistics. They like having a defined point of skill. "this player is good, he hits the ball 329 times every 1000 at bats". This cannot be done for hockey. A player's skill is so much more than just his points, so an arbitrary marking cannot be defined for "good." Also because of this, each person's assessment of any given player is subjective and individual. This is what keeps our sport more interesting and complicated than baseball, and is also why viewership is always low.
Filed Under:   NHL   MLB   statistics  
August 23, 2007 11:21 AM ET | Delete
Statistics definitely play a bigger role in Baseball than in any sport. But if the point of your blog is that this is a major reason why hockey isn't as popular, then I completely disagree. The NFL and NBA aren't obsessed with stats any more than the NHL is, so why are they more popular? Many factors go into the popularity of a sport, and the list is much too long for a comment box to contain.
August 23, 2007 2:08 PM ET | Delete
I agree with Naschcity, it's not the statistics. I, as an American, and one that has only a handful of hockey fan friends, know that it is because most weren't brought up watching it or exposed to it. When I was younger there was kid in my neighborhood who was from Minnesota. Because of him I learned to play street hockey and LOVED it. I've noticed that when I watch a game with my non-hockey friends they usually are lost because they don't know how to anticipate the game. Baseball is easy to watch because the cameras are always pointing right where the ball is. Hockey has to cover so much ground so quickly, the untrained eye is lost. I admit as well, the first time I watched a game on TV I was like, where the he!! is the puck? A lot of people, maybe Americans in particular because the sport isn't inherently "Theirs", give up quicker because it is not so easy to watch AT FIRST. Maybe if people got past this minor inconvenience they'd get to like the sport. My dad, for one, has. But maybe I just goaded him into it...
August 23, 2007 5:45 PM ET | Delete
The blog and both of the first two comments are good...why? Because there are no easy answers and the three of you have just pointed out several issues that are all part of the bigger picture. It will take posts such these and more time to make real headway. I'll add to Canes' first TV experience by saying that true (1080) hi-def on quality glass (plasma, LCD, etc.) has the potential to greatly increase and speed up hockey's growing acceptance. After all, there is no better sport. Period.
August 23, 2007 6:29 PM ET | Delete
Agreed, blueline. Plus with the track-cam and in net cams they seem to be coming up with new ideas all the time on how to better display the sport. I wish I could afford a hi-def TV though. Luckily I have my highly trained hockey eye, heh.
August 23, 2007 7:06 PM ET | Delete
My hockey eyes need the help...yours are a lot younger. Besides, by the time your eyes need help there will be something even better than hi-def, I'm sure. And yeah, I like some of the new camera placement options...the ability to have tiny cameras with incredibly high quality images is amazing. Now all they need to do is figure out how to capture a puck moving at 100 mph without it being a blur across half the screen (especially with freeze frames and replays). It's horrible...you can't see or determine much of anything. The puck is just too fast...like the game! (Hockey fan virgins don't have a clue as to what they're missing.)
August 23, 2007 8:40 PM ET | Delete
All good point but not relevant to why hockey is not popular to Americans.
August 24, 2007 1:53 AM ET | Delete
One thing is for sure...stats certainly do not tell the whole story in hockey. Just ask the Sabres.
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