Hockey Leaves Me Cold

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I-m Diana Nyad for KCRW, and this is The Score.

It-s June and the Stanley Cup is skating to a close. (The Stanley Cup Final skated all the way to Memorial Day.) I feel pretty much the same way about hockey as I do about soccer. There are so many reasons to admire both games. Coming from a fitness sport myself, I can certainly appreciate the shape these players are in. They either skate or run almost continually for the entire game. On the other hand, that-s one of both games- downfalls. Time and again, I-ve headed out to a hockey arena or a soccer game, anticipating sharing the excitement with my friends who are fans, and time and again I-ve been lulled into a hypnotic trance from tracking the puck, or the ball, left to right, right to left, left to right, right to left. Back in the mid -70-s, I was in Buenos Aires at a time when Argentina was scheduled to play Italy in a World Cup soccer semi-final match. I went with some Argentine friends who stopped at a church to pray before the game. From maybe half an hour before the first whistle to half an hour after the game was over, 100,000 or so people never sat down.

The final score? Zero, zero. Two hours of running and gunning. I had binoculars and really tried to appreciate the intricate footwork, the incredible leaps for headers. And the geometry was interesting, as a team would orchestrate its way down the field. But, in the end, it was some two hours of nothing but orchestrating down the field. I never came close to tears.

Personally, I love an offensive strategy that works. That-s why this year-s SuperBowl was so thrilling. Both the Patriots and the Panthers were hot on offense. They both scored in a wild variety of ways.

I realize baseball purists say there-s nothing like watching a 1-0 ball game where both pitchers hold the opponent scoreless until some batter sneaks through in the ninth. I guess I-m not a purist. I love a sloppy game where a pitcher is somewhat vulnerable and a couple of errors allow for lots of scoring.

Back to soccer, I also try to get into it because it-s &quotEveryman-s; Game&quot.; I-ve been into the interior of Borneo-s rain forests, the beaches of Southern Patagonia, below the Antarctic Circle Line, and the sand lots of rural Kansas. All around the world, barefoot and with balls sometimes made of bedding tied with string or just a simple tin can, people respond to the challenge of kicking their makeshift ball up and down their makeshift field, trying to outmaneover and outsprint each other, lots of laughter ensuing as well. It-s a simple premise with universal opportunity.and that-s very appealing.

The notion of soccer I truly do appreciate. I just can-t get down to watching the sport. And hockey, for me, is even worse. First of all, I like to appreciate an athlete-s body. When you see photos of these great hockey players in the locker room, they are ripped. Carved muscles, lean and incredibly strong. But the padded uniforms they wear make them look like Pillsbury Dough Boys. I don-t even like what I have to wear to a hockey game. Wearing a sweater and scarf to a fall football game, that-s fair enough. That nip in the air, autumn leaves swirling. But I hate bulking up in a turtleneck, parka, and gloves to shiver through an indoor hockey game. Especially this time of year. How did this winter sport drift all the way into summer? It-s counter-intuitive. It just doesn-t seem right. And, finally, there-s the speed of the puck. Most of the game, I have no idea where it is. It-s so satisfying to watch a football spiral for 60 yards into the outstretched hands of a receiver. There-s a visceral reaction where you reach out your own hands as if you-re sharing the sensation of spiraling with the ball. The same thing with a Reggie Miller high arcing 3-pointer in basketball, Your heart surges toward to net as the ball backspins up and into the basket. But in hockey, if and when a goal is finally scored, most of the spectators both at the rink and at home haven-t actually seen the puck fly into the net. Hate to say it, but hockey? The game leaves me cold.

This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and that-s The Score.



Diana Nyad