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The fix is in

Posted by Bob Lobel November 27, 2008 05:58 AM

I'm just sitting here waiting for the Revolution's annual title game. Coming soon, right? I'd like to view this down time as anopportunity to fix some things that are obviously broken. It’s a chance to make things better in our universe of sports.

One of the broken things is the National Hockey League. It’s just so obvious. It’s almost not even worth talking about. The fact that we’re in the middle of a Bruins winning streak that will rival the one the Pats executed last year doesn’t make the league any less broken. Can we just fix this beast? Or dismiss it as a minor league sport somewhere between slamball, arena football, and the fantasy mixed martial arts?

Mr. Fix-It’s hockey hint No. 1: Ban Gary Bettman from the league. He’s the one who broke it.

Hockey hint No. 2: Go to 10 teams. It seems arbitrary, but you get the point. We could have the Original Six teams (Boston, Montreal, Toronto, New York, Chicago, and Detroit) plus Philadelphia, Edmonton, Colorado, and Quebec. Arbitrary, as I said. This is such a basic tenet for fixing the product, it’s laughable to suggest otherwise. That’s because the talent pool automatically gets so much better.

Hockey hint No. 3: Fight more. A horrible, crude suggestion, but let’s be frank. The reduction in fighting has not had much of an effect on the global impact of violence. Get over it.

Ten teams. Better talent. Back to the bouts.

Unfortunately, the Bruins’ annual November run has allowed us to accept the present state of the hockey world. The Bruins are having their Stanley Cup November duck-puck boat parade, and hockey heads are declaring Claude Julien another Hector “Toe” Blake or Scotty Bowman, comparing him to Don Cherry or Harry Sinden. Here’s my question: How on God’s earth would you know if a hockey coach is good or not? How can a guy like Barry Melrose get fired in Tampa or some other ungodly outpost of hockey before the end of November?

OK, enough. These comments are gasoline on a fire. I don’t want to be right on this. In fact, it’s not about the Bruins. It is about the league in which they play. I’m just trying to make the league they play in relevant. Which would make what they do relevant. And right now, neither is relevant, no matter what anybody says.

Hall of Fame is more of a shame
I wish the fix were in the way it was when it came to the Baseball Hall of Fame. This anachronism couldn’t be more broken if it tried. Ironically, the only way the Hall could ever become a respectable operation again is from within. It’s crazy. We place so much value on getting into the Baseball Hall of Fame, and the process is so embarrassing. But the good news is that it is all fixable. It can be rectified. It can become the holy grail of baseball honors, instead of a “holy cow” mess of ego-driven voters, clinging to their votes like Gollum to Frodo’s ring.

Their vote is their Precious. They alone control it. The writers probably don’t think that the system is broken. But looming on the horizon are some big problems: Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, and Pete Rose. Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, and Manny Ramirez will make things exponentially worse when they are eligible for election.

As numbers rise with the tide of a game, so will questions about who is worthy, who is not, and all of the subjectivity that goes with it. Voters will look like fools. And the Baseball Hall of Fame can only continue to be diminished. It should not be an area of controversy. It should be an area of celebration.

The powers that be need to examine themselves. They need to set up a super panel of their own to examine the problems and issues of the future, and to look at what happened in the past that got them to this place — to study the issues that created this broken institution. They alone can make it better.

They can restructure, reorganize, redo the whole process, which continues to clang along. The Hall of Fame’s future, its integrity, its rightful place in celebrating the game’s immortals is at stake.

The other option is the Marvin Miller approach. Of the Hall, Miller once said, “You can take that institution and shove it.” To some degree, Miller had a point. I agree with him.

The day the Hall was created was wonderful. But we have come to not-so-wonderful times. Steroids, HGH, people quitting on the field, personality issues. All of this stuff has become part of the mix from which worthy candidates are either selected or rejected.

I will even offer this: Baseball writers can pick a panel of their own. They can add outsiders and they can add insiders. They can put anybody they want on the panel, including people outside their organization, people who know a few things about running successful operations. You could come up with a voting bloc that’s workable, less subjective, and less personalized, and that produces a more legitimate ticket to Cooperstown.

To be willing to take a chance on losing personal power would mean to make the institution a better place. That is the challenge for those who make up the Baseball Writers Association. And that’s the only way they are going to fix this crumbling institution.

Veteran TV personality Bob Lobel is an OT columnist and can be reached at otfeedback@globe.com

4 comments so far...
  1. Bob,
    That you are not on Boston TV or radio is a total shame.Especially your commentary on Sunday football. Hope your health is returning and hope to see you soon.

    Posted by Mark November 30, 08 11:43 AM
  1. Regarding hockey, you are 1000 times right. The league is a watered down Sunday brunch league, lacking toughness, identity and excitement. I think we should go even further and have the players lose the helmets. Imagine Bobby Orr in a helmet? Helmets might protect the head in some instances, but mostly they make the players unrecognizable. I bet the number of hits from behind would stop if players were not wearing them. Also, shrink the rinks back to Boston Garden size. The game is now a game of keep away. On TV, the game looks too small. The garden was intimate and intimidating to opposing fans. Finally, the league should stop screwing with the rules. Every time new fans think they understand the rules, they change them. Get rid of those silly touch penalties that ruin the flow of the game and let the defenseman clear out the front of the net for crying out loud. Imagine if Sean Avery had done his screening dance in front of Billy Smith, Ron Hextall, or Gerry Cheevers? He would have no legs left or no face left after the goalie and the defenseman had gotten done with him. The goalie would not have gotten a penalty either. Anyway, thanks for caring, miss you on tv.

    Posted by Adrienne Monestere November 30, 08 12:37 PM
  1. you really come off as arrogant in this article, be happy the bruins are playing well or dont write about them.

    Posted by chris November 30, 08 04:31 PM
  1. Bob,
    Enjoyed your broadcasts over the years, but your journalism skills here are lacking. What exactly (besides ill-informed writers) is wrong with the league? Your article lacks any real hard facts or actual opinions of the game itself outside of a lack of fighting. If you've been watching, the hockey is the best it’s been in years since they got rid of the clutching and grabbing, the players are far more skilled and faster than they were 30 years ago, and believe it or not, they do still fight (see Lucic-Komisarik for example). The players actually have class and character, unlike a myriad of NBA, NFL & MLB players. It also doesn’t have a Steroid issue (see NFL, MLB), or a perennial thug issue with an arrest sheet (see: NBA, NFL, MLB) that rivals the size of an NFL play book. While I agree that it could be better in its decision making about some things (certain markets they’ve entered, broadcasting, overall marketing), but the game itself is on the right track and if you actually watch, you’d be hard pressed to argue otherwise.
    Perhaps you should write about why the NHL doesn't get the due respect it so deserves. Or, on the other hand, maybe the league would be better off with players that take steroids, get arrested often, act classless, call attention to themselves and make the TV execs take notice…… is that when you’d start saying the league deserves more attention?

    Posted by Jim L November 30, 08 08:48 PM
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Charles P. Pierce writes for the Boston Globe Magazine. A long-time sportswriter and columnist, Pierce is a frequent guest on national TV and radio.
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