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Once Upon A Time

Ever since I was a boy, I’ve always enjoyed a good story.  Storytelling is a fine art, and it’s hard not to admire someone who has the ability to describe past events in a compelling fashion. 

With that said, even the best storytellers have a tendency to embellish the facts.  Sports journalists and commentators are no exception

As I look back on the Stanley Cup final, there’s no question the better team won.  Boston outclassed, out-skated, and more importantly, outscored Vancouver when it mattered most.  As they often do, media pundits tried to identify the moment when the series turned in Boston’s favor.  Predictably, the Aaron Rome hit on Nathan Horton early in Game 3 was deemed the turning point.

What’s funny about media narratives is that the story is always told after the fact.  In other words, writers and talking heads make up phony reasons to explain why something happened.  Unfortunately, they can’t definitively predict what’s going to happen in advance, so they have to wait for something to play out before explaining it.  The narrative that is told depends upon the result.

The Horton hit fits the turning point narrative because the Bruins went on a tear immediately afterward.  If the Bruins had lost the series, it would’ve been blamed, in part, on the loss of Horton.  If the Canucks would’ve won the series, it would’ve been because they overcame the glutton of injuries they suffered.  Because they lost, the injuries are used as an excuse.  It’s the same story every year.

If the Bruins would’ve lost Game 7, the Canucks would’ve been considered the better team, even though they were grossly outplayed in the series.  Does that make any sense?  No, but that would’ve been the media spin.  In reality, nobody knew who was going to win Game 7.  But because we now know who won, we’re comfortable sitting back and watching guys like Bob McKenzie and Barry Melrose (the same guy who said the Flyers would beat the Bruins) give us every cliche in the book to explain the greatness we have witnessed.  And we eat it up. 

The story is always told after the fact, when in fact, there is no story to tell.  Not a sexy one, anyway.  Hockey is a game of great skill, but it’s also a game of great luck.  Think of the bounces that have to go your way in order to win the Stanley Cup.  In many ways, hockey is a game where the best team doesn’t always win.  It’s usually the luckiest team that prevails.  The 1993 Canadiens won ten playoff overtime games in a row.  If they lose two of those games, they don’t even make it to second round.  Instead, they’re considered the best team because they won the title. 

It’s nonsense.  The ‘93 Canadiens were incredibly lucky.  Many champions before and after them fall into the same category.

Were it not for some incredible bounces in overtime, the Bruins may not have made it out of the first round.  But that’s not the story you hear from Jack Edwards (NESN), Kevin Dupont (Boston Globe), and the rest of the Boston media contingent.  To them, justice was served and the best team won.  They can’t say the luckiest team won, even if they truly believe that’s what happened.  The fans don’t want to hear that jargon. 

The Capitals were swept by the Lightning, and because they’ve gone down in the playoffs three years in a row, they’re considered chokers.  In reality, Tampa won three of those games by one goal, and the other by two.  The games could’ve gone either way.  But what’s the media storyline?  The Caps gagged.  Again.

With that said, you have to earn your luck.  Every athlete and team needs luck to succeed.  The reason why it’s so incredibly difficult to win the Stanley Cup is because you have to get all the breaks in order to bring home the bacon.  That’s that makes winning so damn sweet. 

Sweet, but not sexy.

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