Crickets chirping. Imagine being NBC. Imagine having to pay your NHL on-air talent and production crew to beam a game broadcast back from Edmonton, when color bars and a loop of "Rainbow Connection" would draw a higher rating out of pure curiosity.
As pointed out by USA Today today, NBC is facing the prospect of having the lowest rating in the history of prime-time television on Saturday, when it does Game 3 of the NHL Stanley Cup Finals in Edmonton.
Even the slighest possibility of a competitive series drawing more viewers appears to have gone by the wayside, as the Hurricanes enter Game 3 having scored ten of the last 11 goals in the series. NBC is trying to put a positive face on all of this, saying that they believe in the NHL. But they apparently don't believe in it too much, because in two hours of prime-time programming I watched on NBC last night, I didn't see one promotional spot for the NHL playoffs. There isn't a single mention of the NHL playoffs on the front page of NBC.com, where they are choosing instead to promote "Saturday Night Live" and select stupid prime-time shows that don't air anytime soon.
So we apparently have two different ideas on how to promote the NHL. OLN saturated their programming with hockey during the playoffs, and no one watched. NBC is giving the impression that these games are nothing more than a burden for them, and no one will watch.
Tell me again why ESPN was so bad for hockey. The argument, that they ignored hockey, isn't valid anymore, because you can't blame ESPN's treatment of hockey for the sport's poor ratings on the network. Maybe it's time for everyone who follows the sport to stop worrying about the ratings and start admitting that it is what it is. Let all these other people miss out on the fun.
Oh, yeah. Basketball. See? I forgot about the NBA, and I'm sure it didn't affect their ratings (of course, I'd have to have readers for something like that to happen). The Finals started last night, as Dallas defeated Miami 90-80. The Mavericks showed why they will probably win this series, as Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard were horrible, but they won anyway. Instead of Nowitzki and/or Howard carrying the team, Jason Terry scored a game-high 32 points. The Mavericks were very good defensively, holding Dwyane Wade to just 15 points after a huge first quarter, and they were helped by Miami going just 7-for-19 on free throws.
In the end, I think Dallas is deeper. They have Howard to smother Wade as much as possible, and Terry and Devin Harris will really make Wade work defensively, which will keep him from maintaining a high energy level. Meanwhile, the Mavericks' secondary scorers can carry the team at least once in a while. Who do you trust more, Jason Terry/Josh Howard/Jerry Stackhouse or a broken-down Shaq/Antoine Walker/Jason Williams?
I know who I'd pick.
As for Shaq, he'll have one or two 30/15-type games, and that's about it. The Mavericks can keep running Erick Dampier (motivated by Shaq's well-publicized "WNBA" bomb earlier in the season) and Desagana Diop at Shaq, and they can always throw Keith Van Horn out there if they need the extra six fouls for some reason. The Heat won't go to Shaq in crunch time, especially after his 1-for-9 free throw performance in Game One. And Shaq can't keep up with the likes of Nowitzki and Howard in a seven-game series.
First, it was steroids. Now, it's HGH. Not good for baseball. Even though names haven't been publicized yet, Jason Grimsley has named them. Grimsley, a veteran relief pitcher with a sparkling career ERA of 4.77, has apparently been cheating. Grimsley admitted to investigators that he used steroids, human growth hormone, and amphetamines, three no-nos in baseball, even though baseball has no means of testing for HGH.
There are a number of meaningful things that develop out of this story.
Jason Grimsley sucks. How is he cheating? Seriously, how is he cheating and still not pitching well? Doesn't this change your view of this story in baseball? If a player with a 4.77 career ERA is cheating, who else is cheating and not getting anything out of it?
He named names. Who are they? Something like ten names were thrown out in Grimsley's affidavit. When it was released publicly, the names were blacked out. Let the speculation begin. In fact, it already has. And if this is true (I've never read anything on this site, and I have no idea if this is at all credible, so don't shoot the messenger...I just provided the link), baseball might be dead as we know it. Baseball can handle Barry Bonds being implicated, because nobody likes him. Baseball can handle Jason Giambi being implicated, because enough people hate the Yankees that it doesn't matter what Giambi does or has done. Baseball can't handle two people being implicated, and one of them is Albert Pujols, named in the above-linked story (the other, by the way, is David Ortiz). If Pujols is on something, everything that is good about this baseball season becomes questionable.
Where do we go from here? If Grimsley is right, and the use of HGH is rampant among baseball players, what exactly is baseball going to do? There is no reliable test for HGH at this time.
One thing is certain: With how hard baseball has tried to improve their public image when it comes to steroid use, this is that last thing they need. A crappy relief pitcher admitting that he has been cheating.