Sports Commentary 1/2/13

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The fiscal cliff is approaching and so far there’s no progress toward an agreement that would avoid heartbreak for so many Americans. And Canadians. Not that fiscal cliff, the one that was determined a long time ago in the National Hockey League labor talks. What you probably didn’t know about these negotiations is that the drama at every turn, every time an announcement is made cancelling games, the latest taking out the schedule through January 14th, is all manufactured. The owners had dates and figures all prepared in advance and nothing that’s happened for public consumption since the third lockout in the last two decades officially began in September has changed a thing. Last July, when the foundation was laid for all of this, the owners had one date in mind, January 11th, and one figure in mind, 50-50. The date is still firm, with the general feeling if a deal is in place by next Friday they can begin play on January 19th and squeeze in a 48 game schedule, which means the league will be cheating the people it needs most, whatever fans are still willing to buy tickets after all these shenanigans. Those tickets they’ll be buying for at least the first two weeks of the truncated season will be full price for the pleasure of watching what amounts to scrimmages and exhibition games played by players with one week of lead time. The owners put the bitter pill on the table early, trying to take some of the sour taste out of it by lowballing the number to make more palatable the only thing they’ll settle for. With players currently getting 57% of the hockey related revenues the owners opened with a proposed cut to 47%. They brought the proposal up to 50-50 nearly two months ago and it hasn’t changed since. The owners will get what they want out of these negotiations, with or without a season, the only option for the union is to negotiate some soft landing areas for the players when they eventually accept the deal. The only thing that’s changed since this all started was the quality of the games fans will be paying for if there is a short season. My new year’s wish for the NHL: No season, a return next year minus at least a half dozen teams, which you could probably pick out just by looking at a map, a season next fall in which the survivors get stronger then look to regroup this seasons losses by collecting expansion fees from four well researched, hand picked markets that won’t be crying for revenue sharing in two years. A stronger product is a better product. My biggest sports conundrum of the new year is in the WNBA. I can’t tell you how happy it would make me to see one of the great guys in all of sports, Mike Thibault, erradicate the one stigma on his resume and win that elusive league championship with the Washington Mystics. Of course, I’d also like to see that championship finally reside in Montville. Unfortunately the two are now mutually exclusive. I could be happy with either one. With a couple of ways I’d like to see things go in the sports world in 2013, I’m Scott Gray.

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