Speed Read: NBC, NHL Screw Local Hockey Fans

One of the most jarring aspects of the Stanley Cup finals, other than the ease with which the Red Wings dispatched the Penguins on Sunday night to push the series to 3-2, has been NBC’s hardball with fans in Detroit and Pittsburgh. For the duration of the playoffs, both teams have been able to hold massive viewing parties in and outside their arenas. It was such a wonderful, organic expression of the communal nature of fandom that it was basically destined to be ruined by business in short order.

JoeVision Detroit Red Wings
(Thousands of fans watching the game with each other? Nope, can’t have this!)

And lo, in stepped NBC, stopping the broadcasts. As HOCKEYBUZZ.COM reported, initially, they blamed the NHL, despite the NHL’s assertion that that was quite not the case. Then came the truth, that it was a business decisions (all the crappy ones are), and their “business is ratings driven.” CRAIN’S DETROIT BUSINESS has the, ahem, money quote:

A near-sellout of Joe Louis could shave a ratings point off the local television ratings measurement, and such ratings are used to establish advertising rates.

So to that, if the all-important ratings model can’t deal with 8-10 thousand people watching a show in one place on one screen, you know what? The ratings model is completely worthless.  Seriously. How can NBC or Nielsen not figure out what to do with a giant honking party of some of the most hardcore fans all watching one screen? Is that really a deal-breaker?

And if so, if they’re really curious as to what the ratings would look like if everyone stays home, away from the shared community aspect from which most of the value of a ticket to a game is derived, there’s a really easy answer to all of this. You ready? Dick Ebersol, you taking notes?

All NBC has to do is announce that in exchange for showing the game outside both arenas, attending fans have to fill out a simple, anonymous survey about where they would otherwise watch a game (their place or someone else’s), with how many people, and whatever other information the network needs to most closely approximate what ratings would look like. Use that and Nielsen data to extrapolate what the final ratings would be with that many eyes on a TV, and adjust. That’s it. Easy.

This is a rare, rare opportunity for the NHL and NBC. At no other point are they ever going to be able to get this kind of a free pool of television watchers from whom they can mine valuable demographic information. Forcing them back into their homes and away from a group of thousands of like-minded, passionate fans for the sake of moving a needle one or two points does the city, fanbase, and team a disservice. It’s so easy to work around. Figure it out.

Speaking of soccer [I thought we were talking about hockey. No, I’m dead certain of it.–ed.] [Shut up.–AJ] [You have problems.–ed.], UEFA just got a seismic news flash as Real Madrid, evidently furious at having seen FC Barca take the title, has bought the contract of Kaka from AC Milan. Too bad UEFA contract holder SETANTA SPORTS probably won’t survive to see him in the new kit.

Kaka Kiss
(This is where we mention Kaka’s wife and fine whatever you’re all perverts.)

Kaka, a sensational striker from the one-word-name factory that is Brazil, will reportedly command a 6-year, $94 million contract. That’s enough to make it the most expensive in soccer’s history, barely beating out Zinedine Zidane’s 6-year, $65 million deal with Juventus from eight years ago. Meanwhile, David Beckham is running around for a crappy MLS team in Los Angeles for 30 cents on the dollar and going home to a bag of antlers with oversized sunglasses and the “I’m married, but still vain” haircut straight from Jon & Kate + 8. Sic transit gloria mundi: Glory is fleeting.

We mentioned Andrew Thomas Gallo, the man accused of killing Angels rookie Nick Adenhart and two others in a drunk driving collision, yesterday. Gallo pled not guilty to murder, drunk driving, and fleeing the scene of an accident charges yesterday. Great.

Nick Adenhart Killed In Hit and Run Accident
(No, nothing criminal led to this. No way.)

But as we (rightfully) focus on the three people killed far before their time, we should point out that one passenger in Adenhart’s car, 24-year-old Jon Wilhite, has, in fact, survived the crash that left him in critical condition (via the RIVERSIDE PRESS-ENTERPRISE). Wait, that doesn’t appropriately convey the gravity of what happened. He survived internal decapitation.

As MANOLITH explains, internal decapitation, which is exactly as horrifying and life-threatening as it sounds, happens when the skull detaches from the spinal column. It’s usually fatal. Wilhite somehow survived without total paralysis, which is unbelievably rare, and he’s now in rehab with the help of several major leaguers. He’s got a long way to go, but he’s on the right track.

Since we need to get back on a higher note, here are some more links to consider while you’re riding in a cab with former Beach Boy Brian Wilson:

Nick Collison Red Afro
(Yes.)

What do the Raiders need the most on offense?

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Did UEFA Fix The Champions League Semifinal?

Sundays are for topless photos of Lakers girls … and for football. So while there’s no football going on over here, there’s always “football” (cough, soccer) going on across the pond, and three days after a miraculous late goal landed Barcelona, not Chelsea, in the Champions League final, more and more evidence keeps popping up that the game’s referee — Norweigan Tom Henning Ovrebo — may have been under orders to do whatever he could to get Barcelona to the final.

uefa.com screen grab

As fully elucidated in THE SPOILER, not only did Ovrebo fail to call up to four clear penalties on Barcelona down the stretch of the game, UEFA also may have unintentionally let the cat out of the bag on its own official web site, posting a match report of the game (think an American game story) claiming a 1-1 draw before it had even been played.

There aren’t any visual screengrabs of the 1-1 report, but there have been multiple correspondents confirming its existince, and the fact that it called for Barcelona to score late to force a tie and advance to the Champions League Final on the competition’s bizarre away goals rule. Making the matter even stickier is the fact that it also said Chelsea stars Didier Drogba, Michael Ballack and Alex would all receive yellow or red cards … and all were in the second half.

Read more…

Burger War Causes Soccer Tourney To Skip Town

The town of Boraas in Sweden was all ready to welcome next year’s UEFA Under-21 Youth Championships. However, the Swedish city soon found itself scratched from hosting the soccer tourney. Why? Because the local soccer stadium sells the wrong kind of burgers.

Max Swedish burger

BLOOMBERG reports that the Boraas Arena refused to shut down their stadium concession stand of Max, a Swedish competitor of McDonald’s, which happens to be one of the tournament’s main sponsors. Needless to say, the burger behemoth threw it’s corporate weight around and had matches pulled from the Swedish site.

Mayor McCheese was even rumored to have shifted massive bags of cash and Filets O’ Lutefisk from his campaign slush fund to UEFA in order to make this happen. Read more…