Like a Zamboni brightening ice, reflection in order for down time


ORLANDO, Fla. - The NHL just canceled the 2004-05 season, leaving hundreds of sports fans across the nation wondering what they are going to do to fill the horrible void created by the stubborn pucksters and their equally stubborn employers.

Here are a few suggestions:

Read a great book. There is some terrific literature out there, though I don't envy the Barnes & Noble folks who have been agonizing over whether to put Jose Canseco's new bestseller in the fiction or non-fiction section. Can't help with that.

Write a great book. My working title right now is Frankly, Gary Bettman, We Don't Give A Damn. It's sort of like the NHL version of Gone With The Wind, except the main characters burn down their own house.

Rent a movie. Slap Shot might get you through the intense hockey withdrawal symptoms. Personally, I'm waiting for Desperate Housewives: The First Season on DVD.

Learn a second language. If you're Bob Goodenow, maybe you could try to figure out which one the NHL management negotiators have been speaking for the past three months.

Watch NCAA hockey. It's not like your pride is at stake at this point.

Buy a used Zamboni (I bet you can get one cheap) and drive it around your neighborhood after the next ice storm. It'll get big laughs, except from that strange guy down the street in the Whalers jersey.

Hire the Hanson Brothers to provide security at your Frozen Four party.

Get a job as Ricky Williams' personal trainer. I think it's a pretty good bet he'll ask back into the NFL next season.

Need to kill a lot of time. If you have TIVO, you can watch that last Eagles TD drive again.

Head to spring training for a few weeks. That's what I'm doing. Eat your hearts out.

Guess it's obvious I'm not too broken up about the negotiating breakdown, because I think in these kinds of disputes, the warring parties usually get what they deserve.

Bettman complained yesterday that it took the players union until the 11th hour to come around to the necessity of a salary cap. That's true.

Goodenow can counter that the players offered long ago to take a huge across-the-board salary cut to keep negotiations alive. That's also true.

Score a point for the union, if only because the owners cannot dispute a simple fact: They created an environment in which, by their own admission, the voluntary 24 percent payroll reduction offered by the players wouldn't put a significant dent in their economic problems.

The players, meanwhile, still fail to recognize their sport already had a major popularity problem before the lockout. They will regret not taking the deal that was left on the table yesterday. Even if the owners give a little more down the road, it won't make up for what was lost this season.

The Los Angeles Dodgers apparently have come down with a bad case of organizational insecurity. Either that or it's just a coincidence that their 2005 marketing slogan - "This is LA Baseball" - comes just a few weeks after the former Anaheim Angels re-attached Los Angeles to their name in an attempt to increase their appeal to the greater metropolitan L.A. area.

The Dodgers never felt threatened by the Angels in the past. They even let the expansion Angels use Dodger Stadium in the early 1960s while a new ballpark was being built for them in Orange County.

Headline: Judge backs arbitrator, orders Ricky Williams to pay Dolphins $8.6 million.

Future headline: Williams announces comeback. 'I'm hungry again,' he says, 'and it's not just the munchies.'

Final thought: Took part in the WBAL Charity Dodgeball Tournament at the MAC in Timonium on Tuesday night, and all I can say is, it was the most exciting four seconds of my life. I guess agility isn't overrated.

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