Monthly Archives: February 2013

Reggie Ain’t Right: An Argument Against the Asterisk

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Andrew McGilligan | Out of WriteField

“It doesn’t prove nothing.”

“That was a lockout season.”

Those were the comments of Brooklyn Nets forward Reggie Evans when asked by the Daily News what it would mean to defeat the defending champion Miami Heat in an NBA regular season game earlier this year.

Evans is putting forward the asterisk argument, one that has gotten very popular in the past few years.  The asterisk argument means an accomplishment – be it an individual one or team – is made less because of varying circumstances. In the Evans case, he regards the Heat’s championship as devalued because it occurred during a shortened season due to a lockout.

The National Hockey League is facing the same question as its season progresses. Should the team that wins a Stanley Cup have an asterisk besides its name in the record books? This should not take place under any circumstance. Just like the Heats’ epic playoff run last season, the hockey world should embrace its postseason heroes and transcendent moments because – until someone proves otherwise – they’re not tainted in any way.

It’s often said that winning the Stanley Cup is perhaps the hardest championship to capture in all of sports. The four-round grind is grueling and will not be made any easier because of the lockout. Players will be a bit fresher heading into the playoffs compared with seasons past, but that should be a selling point not a negative. A shortened season should mean an even higher level of play during the postseason. A great example of this was LeBron James performance during last year’s NBA’s playoffs. James was unbelievable in leading the Heat to the championship and had a game for the ages against the Celtics in Game 6 in Boston.

Perhaps the NHL is hoping for a similar performance from one of its stars, be it Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Pavel Datsyuk, Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews or Steven Stamkos.

The NHL knows its best showcase is the playoffs as the intensity increases and the players go all out to win the Cup, that’s why it’s the one part of the season that is not affected by the lockout. The playoffs and schedule will be going ahead as it has in years past.

So no asterisk is needed when it comes to this season’s stats or championship.

Reggie Evans was wrong; a shortened season resulted in one of the best playoffs in NBA history. The NHL will be hoping for a similar outcome when the puck drops on the 2013 postseason.

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A record not soon to be broken

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Andrew McGilligan | Out of WriteField

Tim Hamel and Jonathan Langille are now the answers to a trivia question.
If someone asks who were the referees in the game that ended Acadie-Bathurst Titan forward Zach O’Brien’s streak of 181 games without a penalty, the answer is Hamel and Langille.
The unbelievable mark has come to an end in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with O’Brien’s first major junior foray into the sin bin. He was whistled for interference of a player or goaltender at 1:52 of the second period in a 5-1 loss to the Moncton Wildcats on Tuesday.
As if being a young man playing the volatile sport of hockey and not taking so much as a hooking call in 181 games (191 if you count the playoffs) isn’t impressive enough, a quick look at some other numbers really puts the accomplishment into perspective.
82
Not only did O’Brien set a new record, he shattered the previous mark by 82. The longest streak without a penalty before the Newfoundland-born O’Brien etched his name into the record book was 99. The player who compiled the second-longest streak in Q history was Jean-Luc Phaneuf who played three seasons in the league with Montreal. Phaneuf’s streak stretched from Nov. 5, 1973 to Feb. 4, 1975. O’Brien’s streak began Sept. 11, 2009 and ended with his last penalty-free game on Feb. 17, 2013.

248

During his streak, O’Brien has racked up 248 points in regular season play. Not only is he a perpetual candidate for most sportsmanlike player, but the Titan sniper is one of the most consistent point-getters in the Q. He currently sits in a tie for seventh in the scoring race, finished second in 2011-12 and notched 65 – including 29 goals in his first full season in the league in 2010-11. He led the league in goal scoring with 50 last season.
20-22 minutes
Given his talent and importance to the Titan, O’Brien plays between 20-22 minutes a night according to statistics provided by the team. To log heavy minutes as a first-line forward, night in and night out and not so much as get-the-stick-up accidently for a hooking call or put too much behind a clearing attempt and watch it sail over the glass is unbelievable.
1.3 and 0.010989010989011
O’Brien has averaged 1.3 points per game in his career while his penalty minutes per game average is 0.010989010989011.
He logs heavy minutes for a playoff team, doesn’t put his team in bad situations, is perpetually among the league’s top scorers and when he’s on the ice he creates scoring chances. O’Brien is the definition of a valuable hockey player.
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The moral dilemma of PEDs

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Andrew McGilligan | Out of WriteField

In a recent column by Bill Simmons he reprinted a letter from a reader in regards to Performance Enhancing Drugs. Here’s the text of the letter:

In The Wire when Marlo is about to begin his war with Avon to become the top dealer, he is warned “Anyone that wore that crown either ends up in jail or dead.” Marlo’s response is one of my favorite lines from the series, “At least they got to wear it.”

There’s a lot of hand-wringing and disgust from people regarding athletes use of PED’s, but the question you have to ask yourself before condemning it is this: Would you do it?

Before you answer, try and put yourself in the position of a professional athlete, difficult to do since most of us will never achieve that level of fitness, athletic ability, fame, fortune, etc. But for the purpose of this exercise, just try and imagine. Millions of dollars in contracts and endorsements are at stake – you can basically set up your family for generations with the right deal. The adulation of adoring fans and the perks of being a pro athlete – sex, drugs and the ability to purchase anything you want or travel anywhere you want because of fame and fortune.

What would you do to keep yourself in that lifestyle? Would you take a drug that doesn’t turn you into an addict, but rather heightens your natural ability enabling you to make more money and reach a higher level of your chosen sport? Athletic competition is based on winning – some say its participation that counts, but in the end everyone wants to be on the winning side. If an injection can bring you closer to the ultimate goal of winning a championship, wouldn’t you consider it?

When discussing PED’s there’s a sense that athletes, once they’ve started using, are no longer part of the equation. People only see the PED’s and discount the athlete’s ability. Does taking steroids help you hit homeruns? Absolutely, but being able to hit Mariano Rivera’s cutter doesn’t simply come from an injection. The drugs enhance, not completely take over the athlete’s body and control them. The athlete is still in control and their natural ability is still a major part of any performance.

All this to say, it’s easy to criticize athletes for taking PEDs. It’s cheating; it’s illegal and sets a bad standard for those who will follow in their footsteps. All of that is true. What’s difficult is to look at the situation and say you wouldn’t be tempted if you were in the position.

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