When Reader Email Should Be a Blog File

Your Cup'pa Joe tastes better with OFB.

Reader Paul offered his consent for OFB to publish email he sent me yesterday; I judged it too thoughtful and illuminating to keep all to myself. I also love its spirit. I also think he should write for Yahoo. Needless to say, he’ll soon have a new mug for his morning joe. Enjoy.

“I have always believed DC to be a hockey town and have known more hard-core hockey fans here than anywhere else that I have lived (except Minnesota). Many (probably most, and including me) of them developed their passion somewhere else.
The Washington Post’s attitude always amazed me. Almost like they do not understand the nature of this town when it comes to sports, something they understand very well when it comes to covering politics. It was created out of a swamp on purpose . . . so it would not have an entrenched provincial outlook . . . like Philly or NYC.
This role DC plays for hockey is huge. I would argue DC is the most valuable asset the NHL has, for the entire league. If DC did not have a team, all the transplant’s hockey passion would be completely wasted and would wane. In a way, it could be argued that the league should subsidize DC’s effort. This is the IDEAL market for the league to have a player like Ovechkin, where his appeal can be transferred across the league . . . he would be wasted in Edmonton, Buffalo, Detroit and Minnesota. This is especially true since hockey is not regularly nationally televised like the other sports and does not have an American equivalent of “Hockey Night in Canada.” (DC is not the ideal place to have an underperforming team; such a thing would hurt the whole sport.)
This was not doubt part of the thinking the NHL had in starting or moving teams to Atlanta, Florida and Phoenix, to satisfy the passion of all the people from the north who have moved there. The problem however is those places have an overwhelming culture to assimilate those people to the local provincial outlook (which may not include hockey). DC has no such culture — it is perfectly happy to host all the provincial attitudes, [and] Congress reinforces this non-assimilation.
One hockey buddy of mine, (a natural Caps fan) recently moved to Albuquerque. His hockey passion is going to have problems. Transplanted hockey fans in DC (with the notable exception of many Penguin people) are also mature hockey fans who can handle cheering for the Caps and switch on the odd occasion when their ‘natural’ team comes to town. These types of people are very, very valuable people for the NHL. Passion for your entertainment product has to be encouraged nationally or the sport will become relegated to ghettos. DC is a great place to do it . . . sort of like setting up a booth at the Atlanta airport.
Team moves also are an interesting angle that can be examined here in DC. I am a natural (whatever team you were a fan of when you are 8 years old) North Stars fan. I cannot stand the Dallas Stars . . . I intensely dislike everything about that organization and my passion was transferred quite well toward the Caps. I know many Hartford Whalers fans who feel the same way (varying degrees of opposition to the Hurricanes). I tested this unusual conversion a number of years ago in a trip to Minnesota when the Caps happened to be playing the Wild. I went to the game . . . and cheered adamantly for the Caps! No residual feelings whatsoever.
Thanks, sorry for the long note.”

Paul, thanks for caring enough to send it.

This entry was posted in Alexander Ovechkin, Media, Morning cup-a-joe, National Hockey League, OFB, Print, Washington Capitals, Washington Post. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to When Reader Email Should Be a Blog File

  1. “This was not doubt part of the thinking the NHL had in starting or moving teams to Atlanta, Florida and Phoenix, to satisfy the passion of all the people from the north who have moved there. The problem however is those places have an overwhelming culture to assimilate those people to the local provincial outlook (which may not include hockey).”
    I disagree… Miami, Atlanta and Phoenix are hardly “provincial” cities to begin with. You would be hard-pressed to find three cities in which there are fewer locals in the resident population.
    The problem with those markets is not provincialism, but the fact that those cities have hardly ever hosted a game worth watching. Even when the Cup was won in Miami, it was after 6 periods of scoreless hockey that ended with a fluke goal. Imagine if that was the first hockey game you ever watched… would you go out and spend $100 per ticket to see it again? What was the biggest game in Thrashers history… a first-round loss to the Rangers in the process of being swept? And whiteouts aside, the ‘Yotes are the ultimate one-and-out franchise.
    Part of the reason the NHL has had such a hard time surviving nationally is because it takes a culture-based attitude toward its failures, instead of simply looking at objective fact. Washington is not a great hockey market because of cultural diversity… it is a great hockey market WHEN the team is good and a poor one when the team is bad. And that could describe nearly every franchise in the league.

  2. crazy 8 is 16 says:

    dude you’re nuts. dc is and has been a redskins town. it is not a hockey town. as for the comment about alex being wasted in a city like buffalo, wrong again pal.

  3. I admire Paul’s enthusiasm, and I wish it was more widespread south of the 49th Parallel. Here in Toronto, we have no choice but to idolize the guys in Blue and White. Cripes, I lived through the crappy Seventies, for God’s sake.
    No matter how much the Leafs sucked, I fiddled with my radio dial from my basement bedroom and listened to accounts of Ian Turnbull charging across the blue line with an accompanying whine and crackle.
    No matter where you live, you shouldn’t have a problem being a ‘natural’ hockey fan. I was born in Montreal, and I love to watch a match between the Habs and the Leafs.
    If my favourite teams aren’t in the final rounds of the playoffs, I root for the underdog, whether it’s the Dallas Stars or the Coyotes.
    It’s hockey, and it’s all that matters.
    –Sandra Cormier, author of Bad Ice

  4. Flipper says:

    @ bostonblueline
    I disagree that Miami and Atlanta are not “provincial” cities. My family is from the Atlanta area and despite there being a lot of transplants, there is a cultural identity to the city. It is by far the largest “Southern” city and will always identify with being so. Transplants tend to be assimilated into the culture and identity. For example, my grandfather was from New Jersey, but lived the majority of his life in Atlanta and Athens. By the 60’s, he had completely forgotten about his northern roots.
    Miami also has it’s own unique cultural identity deeply rooted in the Latino culture. The retirees that have relocated there also bring something of a unique identity. They WANT to be there. It has become their home. Also, Miami has not won a Cup. Perhaps you are referring to Tampa.
    The difference with DC, as pointed out in the article, is the transient nature. We really don’t have our own cultural identity. Yes, we’re the nation’s capital, but that does not really give us something to point to and say “This is who we are.”

  5. nic says:

    I’d argue that the Redskins (as was mentioned a few posts ago) constitute a cultural identity in D.C. That would explain why every other sport has trouble getting a column inch of print or a few seconds of airtime from training camp through the aftermath of the Super Bowl.
    I don’t know if the Caps will ever enjoy a Redskins-like hold on the area, but I think they have an excellent shot at becoming part of the cultural identity.
    My grandfather took my mom and her brothers to hockey games in the Uline Arena (the Presidents, I believe the team was called.) Then my cousins, siblings, and I grew up at the Capital Centre. Now I go to VC with my sister and her kids, and see my cousins and their kids. That’s three generations of natural Washington hockey fans right there.

  6. Flipper – Surely you’d agree that Atlanta and Miami are not half as provincial as Tampa, Dallas or (for chrissake) Raleigh. In fact, I’d say that of all the sunbelt cities, Atlanta and Miami are the two MOST cosmopolitan and certainly the two most heavily populated by northern transplants.
    It’s no coincidence, though, that Atlanta and Miami have had the hardest time “assimilating” hockey culture. The other three cities have all won Cups in the past decade; the Thrashers and Panthers have COMBINED for one second-round appearance in 24 total seasons. The same rules apply in Atlanta and Miami as we have seen apply in New York, Boston and Chicago this decade — if you want people to support the team, you have to give the fans something worth watching. And to be perfectly frank, the Thrashers and Panthers are the very opposite of what most people consider “worth watching”.
    Despite the myth that cities like St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Washington are “indispensable” because their franchises have a deep and sacred cultural connection with their cities, the reality is that fans in those cities pay attention when the team is winning and move on to football when they’re losing. Give any of them 10 consecutive seasons of bad luck and you’ve got another Hartford on your hands (barring a white-knight intervention by a recently-retired superstar whose name starts with Mario Lemieux).
    So singling out Atlanta and Miami, which have had the worst on-ice product in the league for the past decade, as cities that have failed “culturally” to fall in love with hockey is drawing a false dichotomy between the “established” and “unestablished” hockey markets. The reality is that all but a few NHL cities thrive and wither based on the quality of their team’s ownership — including Washington where the Caps were at the bottom of the league in attendance and franchise value until Ovechkin came along and started selling tickets singlehandedly.

  7. P.S. — The Cup WAS won in Miami… by the Avalanche. 1-0 in triple overtime on a weak goal by Uwe Krupp. Anyone in Miami who watched that game must think hockey is about as exciting as golf.

  8. I’m a “natural” Caps fan, having grown up in Maryland. I moved away for college in 1996 and moved around since then. I’ve never been able to transfer my team loyalty, and I never want to. In Connecticut, Boston, and San Jose I had a “new” home team in each place, but I always felt dirty rooting for anyone but the Caps. The only games I ever went to were when the Caps came to town. I endured crappy Internet radio (in its earliest days) to get my Caps fix.
    It was a real treat to watch a handful of Caps games last season on TV. God bless NHL Network — and TiVo, so I don’t have to leave work in the middle of the afternoon.

  9. seb says:

    D.C. has a cultural identity. An identity that the one n’two year tourists, will never look close enough to find.
    I was born and raised in D.C. and hockey has always been part of my life.

  10. Alex in AZ says:

    It never fails that when anyone – north or south of the border – wants to make a point about hockey in the southern U.S., they pick the teams that are most convenient to their argument to talk about.
    Dallas is ignored when poking fun at unsuccessful franchises. California becomes an anomaly and Anaheim’s success also goes unmentioned… but when talking about successful franchises, Florida and Atlanta are immediately disregarded.
    The Caps are well-followed when it’s successful or has a premier star. They are not when they’re unsuccessful and it’s even worse when they don’t have a star player. The same goes for any other team in the league in the south. The only way around it in the southern U.S. is some major success – win a Cup and have several great seasons around it to build up the fan base and get people interested. Dallas and Anaheim have done a good job with this. Other franchises have not. It’s all about success or failure on the ice to market the product and build the fan base.

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